Stirring words from Greg Olsen signal seismic shift within the Carolina Panthers locker room.
Carolina Panthers veteran tight end Greg Olsen has been with the team since the 2011 season. A former first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, Olsen was traded to the Panthers in an offseason move triggered by general manager Marty Hurney during his previous tenure. New coach, at the time, Ron Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton benefited significantly from his presence.
Olsen joined a Panthers organization on the rise and in almost a decade he’s set franchise and NFL records, won three divisional titles, had four playoff appearances and played in one Super Bowl. However, he’s never been the elder statesman in the locker room until this season. At 33, Olsen is the oldest and longest tenured player currently on the roster.
After starting this year 0-2, Carolina rebounded with four consecutive wins until an embarrassing 51-13 loss at San Francisco. Against an undefeated opponent, some will say it was expected but a 29-3 defeat at the hands of divisional rival Atlanta, who previously had just two wins, is inexcusable.
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"“You’ve got to keep playing. You can just play back what I said to you guys after the 49ers game. Nobody cares, nobody feels sorry for you … Next week, New Orleans is going to try to kill us. That’s the way it goes. Guys in this locker room got to realize playing in the NFL is a lot more than just running around and looking cool. You’ve got to play.”"
Carolina lost three former captains during the offseason. Center Ryan Kalil and defensive end Julius Peppers retired – although Kalil later returned with the New York Jets – while linebacker Thomas Davis was let go in free agency. Three cornerstones of the locker room and potential future Hall of Honor members.
The loss of a veteran presence, especially in a locker room filled with young talent should be concerning, especially if any efforts to lead are being ignored. Olsen doesn’t call anyone out specifically but his comments should be eye-opening for Panthers fans.
As the future of the franchise comes to a crossroads, having a veteran captain question the competitiveness of those around him is not a good look.