Thursday turned into Greg Olsen Tribute Day at Bank of America Stadium. It felt that way, at least.
The irony was it came on a rare day when the Carolina Panthers tight end didn't practice.
Olsen, who was selected to his third straight Pro Bowl this week, is dealing with an elbow injury he picked up late in Monday night's win at Washington. But no one expects him to miss a game for the first time since Week 2 of his rookie season.
Not only does Olsen take a lot of pride in his consecutive games played streak — he's currently at 156 — but he's also admittedly excited to make some NFL history. You've probably heard by now he needs eight receiving yards to become the first tight end with three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
But not everyone was aware.
Let's drop into quarterback Cam Newton's press conference.
Greg's just 8 yards away from becoming the first tight end with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Does it mean anything to you to be on the other end of that?
In Panther history?
No, NFL history.
8 yards? Hmmm.
So you're in control.
I am. I've been called a sabotager. A couple things. But like I say man, I'm just going where the read takes me and, you know, congratulations to him. ... That's pretty impressive. Three back-to-back with 1,000 yards? Not Kellen Winslow? Not Gronk? Tony Gonzalez? Tony's never got 1,000?
Not three straight.
Well, he's special, man. I think one thing about Greg people don't realize is his knack for understanding football — his IQ is up there. It makes my job a lot easier, especially throwing to him.
Shortly after Newton left the podium, coach Ron Rivera was asked about the Newton-Olsen connection that's produced 5,303 yards and 32 touchdowns since 2011.
"Greg is a know-it-all, and by that, I mean in a really good sense. He's a (coach's son)," Rivera said, referencing Olsen's dad Chris, a New Jersey coaching legend. "So when you grow up and you understand the structure of football, it carries over to you on the football field. Whether you're helping your offensive teammates or your defensive teammates or special teams, he's a tremendous fallback for a lot of people.
"When things are happening — it's going really fast — Greg has this calming effect that he can kind of settle everybody down. He helps Cam that way. He helps everybody. He helps me every now and then, too. He has that kind of ability. Guys like that are once-in-a-career type guys."
But wait, there's more.
Panthers Single-Season Rec. Leaders, TEs
"The guy shows up ready to work," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "He works his butt off, even in the weight room, he has a regimen that he follows. He works his butt off from there, and it shows up. It's no surprise that he's able to do the things that he's been able to do and gain the recognition that he's been able to gain.
"We love having him on our football team."
One more piece of irony: Because he was receiving treatment, Olsen, who always makes himself available to media on Thursday, wasn't around to talk about his day. But here's some more from Newton, starting with a story featuring his youngest brother Caylin, who's in Charlotte for Christmas:
"I was here late watching film and he was watching the Redskins game. I'm always challenging to recite a play that I give to him or write down something on the board. Just give him something to do while I'm doing my stuff as well. And I gave him the play, how it was supposed to be on paper. But Greg puts his pizzaz on it and (my brother) was like, 'Well, I thought he was supposed to have this route. And I was like, 'Listen, when you have All-Pro tight end like that, just get him the ball as much as you can and you know guys are on the same Wi-Fi and understanding.' That's been Greg since Day 1. A lot of that comes from his preparation as well as his lineage of football from his dad and his brothers and stuff. He's an all-around great football player.
As a quarterback, what's it like to have a guy who's so dependable?
I won't even say depend on. I think he's a professional. There's a lot of guys that are football players. Minimal guys are professionals, and Greg is a professional.
How does he show that?
It's the standard that he sets and for me to admire his outlook on football, I do it hands-on, I do it from afar, and I just sit back and try to implement some of the things that he does. Just seeing him practice every practice, every, ... I don't know if he wants me to tell you, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Something that he does, he stretches the same every single day. It looks kind of unorthodox, but he's over there in his own little zone. He's got his same little bands and he's stretching. You can tell who it is by sounds effects. That's Greg being Greg. But also, what people don't necessarily see, you don't see him on the JUGS. He does. He has assistants that are just hanging around, asking them to throw him the ball before he leaves the field, during special teams or during defensive emphasize drills. He's just trying to stay one step ahead. When you look at him, he's not the biggest, he's not the strongest, he's not the fastest — don't let him tell you that, he thinks he is the fastest. But he's a guy who brings that mentality every single day. You can't hate on that; you've just got to respect it. And that's what I do; I respect that.
Does he think he's always open?
I wouldn't say that. I would say that if the ball is incomplete and he has an opportunity to make a catch, you will hear from him. Probably not directly, indirectly.
He's also up for Man of the Year, so how impressive is he off the field?
For a person as big of a heart as Greg, you can't put back-to-back bad things to say about a person like Greg. He's a family man; he's a good person and if there's something that's not feeling too good, he's not a person that's going to bring somebody else into his mess. I say that because everything that was going on with his son TJ — I call him Cheeks — in all respect to Cheeks, everything that was going on with him, he was just was so strong about it. We knew with a person like that missing practice, you know. We didn't make a big deal about it, he came back, practiced his tail off the next day and didn't make a big deal about it. We knew he was going through some stuff. And for him to have so much on him as far as what is expected from him from the offensive side on the field; and for him to have, if not, more on him off the field, for him to be the Superman, for him to be the disciplinarian, for him to be the person who his family looks to to see if everything's OK by his reactions. It's a lot — this is coming from me — I know because I'm that person to my family. He makes it look effortless, and I respect a man like that. And like I said, you can put back-to-back bad things to say about a person like that.