Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen wasn’t going to lie to reporters after Carolina’s 19-17 win against Tampa Bay.
These past two weeks have been fun.
A week ago against the Saints, Olsen set a career-high for receptions with 10 in the win. Sunday against the Buccaneers, he matched that record and had 110 receiving yards.
Olsen, in his eighth NFL season, has caught 10 passes each from two different quarterbacks in the past two weeks and been a major offensive catalyst for the Panthers in victories.
“That the quarterback trusts you that you’re going to get open, he’s going to sit on you and give you a chance, that’s fun,” Olsen said. “It’s fun to go out there and catch the ball, it’s fun to go out there and be productive but mostly it’s fun to go out there and contribute and help win the game.”
From start to finish, Olsen was a constant presence in the Panthers’ offense Sunday for the second straight game, as well as the second game this year against Tampa Bay.
He caught eight passes for 83 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 at Tampa Bay, and he replicated that production Sunday with quarterback Derek Anderson again.
“It’s a matchup problem for them,” Anderson said. “When I see him 1-on-1 with a guy I know can’t cover him, I have a lot of confidence in what he’s going to do. I checked some plays to it when they were trying to cover him 1-on-1, and he gets open.”
When the Bucs had two safeties playing high, the middle of the field was open for Anderson to throw strikes to Olsen. Later in the game as the Bucs loaded the middle and played with a single high safety, Anderson hit Olsen on the outside.
Anderson and Olsen have a strong rapport, though both players downplayed that this week when it became evident Anderson would start in place of the injured Cam Newton.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera noted that because Anderson isn’t as willing to take off and run on a pass play like Newton, it gives pass-catchers such as Olsen an opportunity to work to get open.
“My approach is I’m going to try to be as (quarterback) friendly as possible, get open as much as I can and have a quarterback that can depend on me,” Olsen said. “When he throws it there’s a good chance we’re going to complete it.”
Entering the game, Olsen was among the top five tight ends in major receiving categories. His 81 catches for 960 yards lead Carolina’s offense, and his six touchdowns put him in second place on the team.
Olsen broke the team reception record for a tight end, which he set last season at 73, and he’s already eclipsed his career-high for yards in a season.
But there’s the matter of the Pro Bowl, which has eluded Olsen with both Chicago and Carolina. He’s the fifth-leading vote getter at tight end, and this season is his best chance yet to make the all-star event.
Again, Honest Olsen couldn’t tell a lie.
“I’d be lying if I said it’s not a goal of mine. Of course it is,” Olsen said. “But it’s not something I lobby for. It’s not something I go around advocating for. I feel very confident in what I do – I’ve felt that way for eight years now. If they recognize it, that’s great.
“I think around the league, but mostly on our team, I have the respect of my guys and to me, that’s really all that matters. I’m not a guy that’s going to go out there and draw attention. It’s not what I do. I have a job to do and I’m going to try to do it as best I can.”