<
>

Greg Olsen told Panthers TV audition was 'practice' for future

Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen doesn't plan to step away from playing this season and into a career as an NFL analyst for ESPN or any other network, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting.

Olsen recently auditioned for the Monday Night Football analyst job that Jon Gruden had from 2009 until he accepted the coaching job at Oakland after this past season.

Because the opening was for this season and so high profile, that stirred speculation the three-time Pro Bowl selection was considering retiring before this season.

Rivera said Olsen told him and general manager Marty Hurney about the audition before he went to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, assuring both he was only going to "practice'' for what he hopes will be a second career after football.

Olsen predicted when he met with Rivera that his audition would cause a bit of an uproar. But the three-time Pro Bowl selection assured them then and since he returned that his plan is to play this season and beyond.

"At some point, Greg will do [television], but everything he's told me, it's about getting ready for next season.'' Rivera said.

Olsen missed nine games last season with a broken foot suffered in Week 2. It was the first time since 2014 that he failed to get at least 1,000 yards receiving.

Rivera reiterated what Olsen said after the season, that a second surgery was not required.

"Every indication I'm getting from the training staff, he's in there working out,'' Rivera said.

Rivera said defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Luke Kuechly both are expected to miss offseason workouts and a June minicamp rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Both are expected to be ready for training camp.

As for Olsen, Rivera understands the desire to go into television since he did some in Chicago after finishing his playing career with the Chicago Bears.

Asked whether he would consider a career in television again, the two-time NFL Coach of the Year said, "Yeah, if the money is right. Shoot, everybody has a price.''

That Gruden reportedly made $6.5 million a year at ESPN and held one of the top jobs in NFL broadcasting fueled speculation that Olsen might leave football now if offered the job. Rivera understands there aren't many opportunities like that but hopes to have Olsen for several years to come.

Olsen, 33, is entering the final year of a three-year, $22.5 million contract. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019 if not signed to an extension before then.

"When I first retired, I did the radio and TV thing like a lot of former players,'' Rivera said "It was fun, but it wasn't the game. I missed the game. I couldn't wait to get back into the game, being a part of it. I'm into coaching because I love the game.

"Like Greg said to me, he loves the game. Until he doesn't love it enough to keep playing, that's when he'll decide [to retire].''