Posted on September 18, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Carolina Panthers are off to a promising 2-0 start this season. However, adversity has already struck the team in the form of an injury. Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen is expected to miss the next six to eight weeks with a broken foot. Olsen suffered the injury during Sunday’s 9-3 win over the Bills. It was a non-contact injury that now leaves the Panthers without one their top offensive playmakers for a significant chunk of the season.
“I just planted my foot and I just felt it pop,” Olsen told reporters after Sunday’s game. “I thought maybe if I come off and regroup a little bit, but I just knew something wasn’t right.”
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera told reporters Monday that Olsen had already undergone surgery to treat the broken foot. He said there’s no timetable for Olsen’s return at this point. However, Ian Rapoport is reporting that the tight end will miss six to eight week.
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Rivera has confirmed that the team does not believe the injury is season-ending. The Panthers are yet to decide if Olsen will be placed on injured reserve with the possibility of being activated later in the year. In any event, this will be the first time since his rookie season in 2007 that Olsen fails to play 16 games in a season.
“It’s tough for something like that to just happen,” Olsen said Sunday. “Obviously it sucks, but I’ve been very lucky in my career to not get injured a lot. This is something that obviously will take a little bit of time, but sometimes that’s just a part the game.”
Rivera compared the loss of Olsen to when Kelvin Benjamin suffered a season-ending injury prior to the 2015 season. Despite the loss of a key playmaker, Cam Newton went on to win MVP and lead the Panthers to the Super Bowl that season. However, the Carolina offense is in a much different place than two years ago. Newton is still working his way back to full health after offseason shoulder surgery. Also, the Panthers managed just 9 points on three field goals on Sunday, albeit against a tough Buffalo defense.
Olsen has also been Carolina’s leading receiver over the past three seasons. He racked up over 1,000 yards receiving and received an invitation to the Pro Bowl each season. Newton has leaned on Olsen in difficult spots during his tenure in Carolina. Replacing him, even if it’s only for six weeks, will be no easy task.
Ed Dickson is next up on the depth chart. He’s been the backup to Olsen in Carolina the past three seasons. But he’s never caught more than 17 passes in a season since joining the Panthers. Second year tight end Chris Manhertz is behind Dickson on the depth chart.
The duo of Dickson and Manhertz is an obvious drop off from one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL. But Rivera says there’s no reason for the Panthers to change what they do offensively.
“We’re not going to change the offense because Greg’s out,” said Rivera. “We’re going to do things that we do. One of the worst things you can do now is all of a sudden say we have to change all the things we’ve put in. Ed is more than capable.”
Rivera is doing his best to remain positive following the loss of Olsen. But there’s no denying that it’s a significant setback for the Panthers. He’s easily the most trustworthy receiver the Panthers have. The Carolina offense isn’t exactly setting the world on fire through the first two weeks of the season. Playing without Olsen for at least six to eight weeks will be a tough challenge for the Panthers.