CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen has never been one for statistics or personal accolades.
He’s the type of player who takes just as much pride in throwing a good block that leads to a Cam Newton touchdown pass to a teammate as he does hauling in one of his own.
But even the humble nine-year NFL veteran admits there’s one statistical accomplishment that would mean something to him — a third straight 1,000-yard season. No other tight end in league history has accomplished that feat, including personal idols Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten.
“For me, that checks off a lot of different boxes — productivity, reliability, durability, longevity,” said Olsen, whose Panthers take on Denver on Thursday night in the NFL regular season opener. “Those are all things that mean something to me. I think there are so many factors that go into that statistic.”
With Olsen, it all comes back to consistency.
From the way he approaches the offseason to the amount of time he spends each week in the film room, he’s garnered the respect of his teammates. It’s one of the reasons he’s selected as an offensive captain every year.
Teammate Jonathan Stewart calls the 31-year-old Olsen “borderline obsessive compulsive” when it comes to his strict training regimen and approach to the game.
“He is all about the little details in everything he does,” Stewart said. “He knows where he is supposed to be and what he’s supposed to be doing at all times.”
It’s paid off.
Since being acquired by the Panthers in a trade for a third-round draft pick in 2011, Olsen has been as reliable as football in the fall — he’s played in 142 straight games — and consistently productive.
He’s averaged 70 receptions for 862 yards over the last five seasons and recorded at least five TD receptions in each of those years.
And he keeps getting better.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Olsen followed up an 84-catch season in 2014 with perhaps his finest overall season. He caught 77 passes for a career-high 1,104 yards receiving along with seven touchdowns helping the Panthers open the 2015 season 14-0 and reach the Super Bowl.
He averaged 14.3 yards per catch — by far the best of his career — to earn second-team All-Pro behind New England’s Rob Gronkowski.
“His work ethic is just tremendous,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He takes great care of himself. He conditions, stretches, gets treatment. I think football is very important to him when he’s here at the stadium. When he goes home he’s a husband and father.”
If Olsen continues to produce the way he has for the next three seasons it will be difficult keeping him out of the Hall of Fame conversation.
He ranks eighth on the career list in receptions by a tight end with 542 and 11th in yards receiving (6,292).
“I don’t have a magic formula,” Olsen said of his success. “I’m not always the fastest guy, I’m not the strongest guy or most athletic guy, but I am going to do things the right way and be reliable. I’m going to know what my quarterback wants from me and do it. I take a lot of pride in that. I take this serious.”
Olsen said he doesn’t want to fall off mentally or physically.
That is why he trains so hard in the offseason. It’s why he has no plans on calling it quits anytime soon.
“The biggest test for guys who start to get older becomes the offseason grind — and I get that,” Olsen said. “It’s tough to get up every day in February and March when there is nothing on the line to train for and keep your body in shape. But I still enjoy it. The easy part is coming to practice to prepare for a game. But as long as I enjoy that training I think I can keep playing for a while.”