Don't forget Olsen in Gonzalez tributes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sorry if this does not pay homage to Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who will play his final NFL game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

But this is about another tight end that is deserving of recognition when he steps on the Georgia Dome field. This is about a tight end who gets overlooked when it comes time for postseason awards because he plays in the same NFC South with Gonzalez and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, two future Hall of Famers.

This is about Carolina's Greg Olsen.

Olsen is on the verge of setting career highs in receptions and receiving yards heading into the regular-season finale. His 67 catches lead the team and are two shy of his career high set a year ago.

His 774 receiving yards also are a team high and 69 shy of last year's career high. His five touchdown catches are tied for the team lead and three shy of the eight he had in 2009 with Chicago.

Over the past three years, Olsen has 171 catches, 2,157 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Were he on a team that features the tight end as much as Atlanta with Gonzalez (252 catches, 2,608 yards, 23 TDS the past three years) or New Orleans with Graham (265 catches, 3,446 yards and 35 TDs the past three years), his numbers surely would be higher.

Instead, he plays in the shadows.

"It is what it is," Olsen said. "I've kind of come to accept that. It used to bother me when I was a younger guy, kind of feeling like you were on the outside when it came time for those Pro Bowl things and all that. I used to get wrapped up in all that.

"But at this point, I know how the team thinks of me. I know what my production level has been. I'm just not a big attention seeker, dunking and flexing. I just go out and play. If I score, great. If I play every snap, I'm going to do everything they ask me to do. I take more pride in that than anything."

The Panthers (11-4) take great pride in having Olsen.

"The things that he does, I don't think he gets enough credit for," coach Ron Rivera said. "The thing is, Greg's not flashy or flamboyant. He just come to work every day."

But Olsen has a great appreciation for what Gonzalez has accomplished. He acknowledges that the 17-year veteran opened the door for more athletic tight ends like him.

"I remember when I was a high school kid he was the elite tight end and here I am now seven years into the NFL and he's still the elite tight end," Olsen said. "It's an unbelievable feat what he's accomplished. He's set the mark for a lot of us growing up, and set the mark for what it means to be a tight end in this modern-day football.

"Football has gotten better because of him. The tight end position for sure has gotten better because of him."

OK, there is a place for homage to Gonzalez in here. His 1,321 career catches for 15,071 yards and 111 touchdowns are hard to ignore.

"Seventeen years," Olsen said. "I'd have to play 10 more years. The crazy thing is, you look at a guy that has 15,000 yards. You'd have to play 15 years and have 1,000 yards every season just to catch him.

"When you put it in that perspective, it's truly incredible what he's done."

And now that Gonzalez is hanging up his cleats, perhaps a player like Olsen will get more recognition.