RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Every day he has a meeting scheduled, Greg Olsen leaves his house in Charlotte, North Carolina, and travels a few minutes away to the office where his foundation is located.
In an NFL offseason where virtual learning has become the norm, Olsen is appreciative of having a place to isolate himself from kids and pets and focus on learning about his first new team in almost a decade.
“I’ve got three young kids. I’ve got dogs barking,” Olsen said. “So for two and a half hours, three hours, to be able to get away and really dive into what I need to do, this is just a really good setup that I have here and it’s very conducive to learning. It’s very conducive to dialing in and focusing.”
It’s clearly been a different kind of offseason for the Seattle Seahawks’ new tight end. Released by Carolina in late January, Olsen eventually signed a $7 million, one-year deal with Seattle in February after considering Washington and Buffalo as other potential landing spots.
That was before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the normal rhythm of the NFL offseason. What would now be the early stages of an offseason program at the Seahawks’ facility is now being done through online meetings — including one where Will Ferrell made a guest appearance impersonating Olsen. “My core is better than his,” Olsen cracked.
Instead of being face-to-face with quarterback Russell Wilson and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to figure out how best to use Olsen in Seattle’s offense, those talks are now done virtually.
“Obviously, it’s been very different from what I’ve been used to and everyone’s been used to,” Olsen said during a video conference Tuesday. “It doesn’t make it any easier in the fact that you’re trying to transition to a new team, a new organization. This is the first new offense I’ve learned in a long time.”
The 35-year-old played in 14 games last season for Carolina after the previous two year were cut short by injuries. Olsen’s 52 receptions were his most since 2016. But the Panthers underwent a major offseason makeover and decided Olsen wasn’t part of those plans with a salary cap number of nearly $11.7 million.
Olsen’s offseason was a mix of figuring out where he would play next, the beginnings of a broadcast career calling XFL games before that season was halted, and making sure he remained healthy and in shape to be a contributor in Seattle
“There’s some things I still haven’t been able to achieve and that was really my main message to the teams that reached out,” Olsen said. “I said I’m not just doing this to collect the paycheck and just extend my career. … I’m looking to go somewhere and win and perform at a high level and contribute. I’m not looking to ruin my career’s work by just being a shell of myself in year 14. If I thought that was the case I would have retired.”
Olsen believes he had the benefit of good timing after being released. He was able to make all his visits and eventually a decision before the NFL locked down facilities. He thinks it could be a reason why his former quarterback Cam Newton remains a free agent after being released by the Panthers in late March.
“Getting released after the lockdown was put in place, I think really limited his chances of teams A. saying that he was healthy and B. just having a conversation with your potential new quarterback. I think that’s been a challenge for him,” Olsen said. “I just hope that as things continue to open up and life sort of starts resembling some normalcy again, he can start checking some of those boxes because he’s too good of a player to not be on a team right now.”