Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Catching up with Panther tight end Greg Olsen

Greg Olsen and his mother Susan, a breast cancer survivor, at an event for Olsen's charitable foundation in 2010.
I caught up with Greg Olsen today and am preparing a long column on the Panther tight end for Thursday’s newspaper. In the meantime, a few highlights to whet your appetite:

-- Olsen’s foundation,, recently donated $50,000 locally to support breast cancer research and cancer patients. His mother Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 while he was in high school and her illness shook the family. Susan Olsen is now a 10-year cancer survivor and Olsen's three-year-old foundation has raised and then given away about $250,000 so far, he says.

“We always said if we were in position to raise money and awareness and help people like we got help back in 2001, we would try to do it,” Olsen said. “That’s the root of how we started the foundation. It’s taken off more than we’ve anticipated.” A charitable music event will be held to raise money for the foundation at Charlotte's Coyote Joe’s later this year and a huge adult kickball tournament in Chicago, where Olsen used to play for the Bears, is scheduled for June 30th.

-- Olsen, who caught 45 passes for 540 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 for Carolina, said he thought the Panthers’ offense could be much better in 2012 than it was last year. That’s no small statement – the Panthers ranked seventh in the NFL in yardage and tied for fifth in points last year.

“I think the results can be night and day,” Olsen said¸ citing the benefits of a full offseason for quarterback Cam Newton and the rest of the cast. “What we did last year was solid. People were excited. But we only won six games. We have to be realistic about what we accomplished last year…. I think this year can be a huge step for the whole organization.”

-- Olsen said he thought the New Orleans Saints had been punished justly for their bounty program, which included a bounty being put on Newton in 2011.

“I don’t think there’s really a place for it in the game,” Olsen said. “At the same time, we all understand what we sign up for. It’s a physical game. It’s a violent game. People get hurt. I don’t think because they put the bounty on guys they hit them any harder, or if there was no bounty would hit them easier. I don’t think once the game starts, you have time to process that…. But just for pure principle, I don’t believe it should be part of the game. I think that’s why the commissioner came down hard on them and I think deservedly so… With player safey being such a huge initiative, he almost didn’t have a choice.”

More coming from Olsen – including his thoughts about fellow tight end Jeremy Shockey likely not returning to the Panthers -- in Thursday’s newspaper.

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