Head coach Ron Rivera says the injury to his tight end is no big deal.
Greg Olsen, by far the Panthers’ most consistent and dangerous target during their run to Super Bowl 50, has missed the last three practices with back spasms. He’s unlikely to play in the team’s preseason game on Saturday and there’s no timetable for his return.
That might worry some coaches, but not in Carolina. According to David Newton for ESPN.com, Rivera has “no long-term concerns” about Olsen, adding the tight end “is a vet and doesn’t need the reps other players do.”
That last part is probably true. Olsen is heading into his 10th season in the NFL and sixth with the Panthers, so he knows the offense and what it takes to get ready for the grind ahead. He’s also coming off of his best season, with a career high 1,104 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.
Whether or not the back issue will linger into the season is another story. Olsen is 31 years old, so injuries and age-related decline are a concern.
Of course, Olsen has also found a way to suit up for all 16 games every year but one, when he was a rookie. Sure, he might be slowing down — although his numbers wouldn’t suggest it — but when it’s gameday, he always seems to find a way to be active.
At this point, it may make sense for the Panthers to hold Olsen out for the remainder of the preseason and focus on trying to win another conference championship.