CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Former Carolina tight end Greg Olsen said Tuesday that the team made it clear to him it was moving in a different direction before he and the Panthers parted ways last week.
“I never asked the team to let me go,” Olsen said in a phone interview with The Observer. “I never said I didn’t want to be part of whatever future direction they are going. It just wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t in their plans.”
Now Olsen is officially a free agent, and he has a different decision to make. He’s going to take his time making it, Olsen said.
“I don’t want to rush into a hasty decision because my pride was hurt,” Olsen said.
The 34-year-old tight end said he will visit Seattle, Buffalo and Washington in the next couple of weeks for what he called “information-gathering” sessions with those three NFL clubs. He also will have national TV broadcast opportunities if he decides to retire.
But, Olsen said, he also would have been happy to play for Carolina and fulfill the final, non-guaranteed season of his contract — in which he would have been paid $11.8 million. He emphasized that he never tried to force his way out (and also said his family plans to keep its permanent home in Charlotte).
The Panthers couldn’t guarantee him that he would be on the roster in July, Olsen said, and appeared almost certain to release him anyway sometime in the next few months, given his expensive contract.
Carolina general manager Marty Hurney flew to Miami last week — where Olsen was working for Fox Sports in a broadcast capacity prior to the Super Bowl — and gave him the news that the two sides were going to need to go in different directions.
Olsen said he didn’t like it and was still getting used to being called a “former” Panther. But he also said he had “no hard feelings” about the decision and was “super-appreciative” of Hurney’s timing.
“I respected Marty for doing it now and not kind of delaying the inevitable until later in the offseason,” Olsen said. “This allows me to make a decision and see what’s out there without this lingering too much longer. They just weren’t able to make that commitment to me being on the roster for this season.”
Was he surprised to be released?
“I don’t think I was,” said Olsen, who played nine seasons for the Panthers, set practically every franchise receiving record for tight ends and had three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons during his tenure. “I was prepared for that just from being around long enough and reading the writing on the wall. It doesn’t make me agree with it. But I don’t think any player ever agrees when they get released.”
In a separate interview Tuesday, Olsen told Charlotte radio station WFNZ that the Panthers characterizing the parting last week as “mutual” was “a little overblown.”
When we spoke, Olsen that he and his agent may have a couple more visits with teams in the works, but that they aren’t happening more quickly, in part, because Olsen has already committed to broadcasting several XFL games — the first one is this weekend.
Olsen said he “spent a little bit of time” with Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson during the Super Bowl in Miami, and came away impressed with what Wilson told him about the Seahawks’ culture. And Olsen has former coaches who are running both the Buffalo Bills (Sean McDermott) and Washington (Ron Rivera) NFL franchises, so those are natural possibilities.
As for quarterback Cam Newton — Olsen’s quarterback for practically all of his nine years in Carolina — the tight end said he had “zero insight” about whether the Panthers would also part ways with Newton in the next few weeks or months. But Olsen and Newton did spend some time together in Miami Beach, along with Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and offensive guard Greg Van Roten, at a restaurant called Prime 112.
“We spent hours trading stories and joking,” Olsen said. “It was really good. It was fun to get the band back together one more time.”