Panthers' Newton: Olsen's return means 'the band is back'

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FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2018, file photo, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) takes the field prior to an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Panthers are hoping to get three-time Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen back from just four weeks after re-breaking his foot. Cam Newton said he can't stress enough how important Olsen is to the team's offense. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is ecstatic to have Greg Olsen back on the football field.

And he wants Olsen to remain on the field, so much that Newton said he asked his spiritual grandmother Hattie-Lou Newton to pray for the tight end's continued health.

"That would be great," Olsen said with a laugh, "I can use all of the help I can get."

The 33-year-old Olsen practiced Thursday and is expected to return to action Sunday against the Redskins after missing three games with a broken foot.

Olsen was one of the most durable players in the NFL during his first 10 seasons, never missing a game due to injury while playing in 158 consecutive games. But he's missed 12 of the last 18 games since first fracturing his right foot in Week 2 of last season. He re-broke the same bone in Carolina's season opener against the Cowboys and hasn't played since.

That has left the three-time Pro Bowl selection frustrated and eager to get back on the field although not enough to rush back from the injury.

"I wouldn't be out there if I didn't think I could help the team," Olsen said. "Me being out there and not being able to move, that doesn't do us any good. This isn't about me just desperately wanting to play. I want to play and I expect to play like I am accustomed to."

Coach Ron Rivera said barring any setbacks before Sunday there won't be any restrictions on Olsen's playing time.

Rivera said Olsen moved around well Thursday, and participated fully in practice. Like his teammates, Olsen hasn't been able to go full speed yet this week because heavy rains the past two days in the Charlotte area have caused the fields to be wet and soggy.

Olsen brings yet another option in the passing game for Newton, who just got second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel back from a minor heart procedure last week.

"The band is back," Newton said with a wide smile.

Nobody knows what Olsen means to the Panthers more than Newton.

Olsen has always been his favorite target. He became the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16.

"He can't (get injured) no more," Newton said. "... His play-making ability on the field is just second to none. Having Greg back, keeping him healthy along with the talent that we already have, it presents a lot of problems for the opposing team."

Newton said Olsen also helps him call out plays in the huddle, something that fans don't always see.

The eighth-year quarterback said many calls in the NFL these days are simply too long and contain too much verbiage, and suggested some need to be simplified one-word phrases like "Panther," or even "Tepper" or "Rivera," referring to the surnames of the team's owner and head coach.

"Greg is a very intellectual person that helps me out with play-calling," Newton said. "I call him 'the dictator' in the huddle because I really have problems with calling plays even in year eight. And he kind of helps me."

Newton went on to say "calling a play shouldn't be a paragraph. ... I will be in the huddle and I'm already tired and I don't have time to be saying this, that and the third. (It should be) ready, ready break. You only get so much time."

Olsen downplayed Newton's comments Thursday, saying the quarterback "exaggerated a little bit" in how much he helps him.

"Cam has it under control," Olsen said. "... Sometimes in the heat of the battle I will help piece some things together. But I think Cam was just being generous."

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