Greg Olsen embraces fresh start as Bears deal him to Panthers
By SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 28, 2011 11:12PM
The Bears dealt tight end Greg Olsen, who was a poor fit in Mike Martz’s offense, to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 third-round pick. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 30, 2011 12:21AM
Greg Olsen just wanted some clarity, to know where he stood with the Bears.
The 31st pick in the 2007 NFL draft, he had improved his catches, yards and touchdowns in each of his first three seasons, and some projected him as a breakout player in 2010.
Many speculated Olsen wouldn’t be an ideal fit under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who traditionally hadn’t used a tight end much. But everyone played nice through a 2010 season in which the Bears won the NFC North and reached the conference title game, even though Olsen’s production dipped across the board.
Heading into the final year of his rookie deal and slated to make $900,000, Olsen needed to feel good about his future.
On Tuesday, Bears officials told his agent Drew Rosenhaus that they needed a couple of days — based on all the chaos of this shortened offseason — before they could discuss a possible extension. Then, on Wednesday night, they informed Rosenhaus they were looking to trade Olsen.
On Thursday, the Carolina Panthers traded a third-round pick in the 2012 draft to the Bears for Olsen, then agreed to terms with the tight end on a four-year extension worth about $24 million, including $10.5 million guaranteed. The Bears also released Brandon Manumaleuna, whom they signed just last offseason to a three-year, $15 million contract, and signed Matt Spaeth from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kellen Davis is the only 2010 holdover at tight end.
Olsen has been stunned by it all.
‘‘It was not something that I expected,’’ he told the Sun-Times. ‘‘Then things transpired really fast. But, in the end, I think I’m going to a good place. There’s no doubt I’m going to miss my teammates, and the city of Chicago has been awesome to me and my family.
‘‘But, the business side of it, this was something that — I guess — was in the Bears’ best interests, and then once we started down that road, there was no turning back.’’
Could he have played another down for the Bears if they hadn’t found a suitable trade partner?
‘‘We went through all that stuff last year, and I was able to put it behind me and move forward,’’ he said. ‘‘Last year wasn’t as serious. But this year was more open and official, that this is what they wanted to do. It would be hard knowing that a team didn’t want you two times, then playing through it again.’’
Olsen admitted his reduced role and opportunities last season bothered him.
‘‘There’s no worse feeling then not being able to play up to your potential,’’ he said. ‘‘Last year, I felt like that was the case.’’
Still, Olsen said he’ll be grateful for his time with the Bears.
‘‘I always had a tremendous amount of respect for [coach] Lovie [Smith] and the Bears for selecting me with their first pick [in 2007],” he said.
Olsen said he fit into the offense, and he embraced Martz’s push for him to become a better blocker. And while he got chances to make plays, ‘‘there were weeks on end where I did nothing. I can’t say I never had a role, but it wasn’t consistent.’’
But Olsen is thrilled to be headed to Carolina, where he’ll reunite with former Miami teammate Jon Beason and former Miami offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
‘‘To get back with Coach Chud, and what he’s done in the past, with tight ends, is going to be huge for my development,’’ Olsen said, ‘‘and I’m looking forward to it.’’
Chudzinski coached two of the game’s most talented tight ends, Kellen Winslow and Antonio Gates.
Asked about his role, Olsen said, ‘‘It’s hard to say. But his track record of using guys is pretty clear, and that’s encouraging. Now it falls on my shoulders on how I perform. To be honest, I think it’s a way to finally get out of the restraints of what our system was.’’
Still, he’ll never forget the last two days, when he was holed up in a dorm room at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, waiting to hear about his future.
‘‘It was weird, because you’re sitting around your dorm, with nothing to do,” he said. “But I’m glad I can move on and go forward.’’