Panthers again have to deal with life without Olsen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers will once again have to figure out the best way to replace the injured Greg Olsen.
The three-time Pro Bowl tight end injured his right foot in the first half of Carolina’s 16-8 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and spent the second half looking on from the sideline on crutches with his foot in a boot. It’s the same foot Olsen fractured in Week 2 last year. That injury kept him out of nine games and ended his streak of three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Olsen was not available for comment after the game and coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t know the extent of the injury.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said the team should know more on Monday, but Olsen’s teammates made it sound like the 33-year-old won’t be returning anytime soon.
Panthers center Ryan Kalil said Olsen was “pretty upset” after the game.
“I feel bad for him,” Kalil said. “He works incredibly hard, he cares a vast amount. He does a nice job, and he was out doing his job for his team, and it breaks my heart for him. Hopefully he gets some good news.”
The Panthers will likely turn to rookie Ian Thomas as their starting tight end, although Cam Newton suggested the front office might need to make a roster move to add a tight end.
“You guys know how I feel about Greg, you can’t ever replace him, his professionalism that he brings to the game, his overall outlook, his IQ, his understanding,” Newton said.
If history is any indication, running back Christian McCaffrey will see more balls thrown his way with Olsen out. McCaffrey was used as Newton’s safety valve last season and finished with a franchise rookie record 80 receptions.
The Panthers also lost right tackle Daryl Williams to a knee injury, although the severity is not known.
Things we learned from Carolina’s win over Dallas:
KICKING TALK: Cowboys fans still angry about the team’s decision to release Dan Bailey, the NFL’s second-most accurate field goal kicker in history, will have more ammunition this week.
Replacement Brett Maher missed his only field goal attempt from 47 yards wide to the right. It came late in the third period with Dallas trailing 10-0.
Intermittent rain made for a sloppy field at Bank of America Stadium on a windy afternoon, conditions Maher brushed off.
“I know what my job is,” Maher said. “My role on this team is to go out there and when I get a chance, put points on the board. I didn’t do that today.”
REPLACING GREGORY: Randy Gregory’s return to football didn’t last long.
The Cowboys defensive end, who missed the 2017 season because of multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, left the game in the first half with a concussion. The league could reportedly rule on another possible substance-abuse related suspension as early as this week.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he had no comment on those reports.
CHASING HIM DOWN: The fact that the Panthers sacked Dak Prescott six times bodes well for the Carolina defense, given he’s an elusive quarterback.
“We know he’s a scrambling quarterback and we know he likes to get out of the pocket,” Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson said. “There were some times he got out and escaped but overall, the D-line did a phenomenal job keeping him in the pocket.”
Prescott finished 19 of 29 for 170 yards, but just a 8.9-yard average and two completions of more than 15 yards.
McCAFFREY’S TOUCHES: Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in ideal world McCaffrey would touch the ball “25-30 times per game” this season. But the versatile second-year back only got his hands on the football 16 times for 95 yards on Sunday.
McCaffrey rushed 10 times for 50 yards, with a long of 15, and caught six passes for 45 yards. Newton targeted him a total of nine times in the passing game.
McCaffrey’s first carry, from the Dallas 5 in the first quarter and with the game still scoreless, resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
“It can’t happen, but it’s football,” McCaffrey said.
FULLBACK WEAPON: The Panthers might have a new goal line weapon in fullback Alex Armah, who scored on a 1-yard plunge on his first NFL carry.
Armah’s number was called after C.J. Anderson’s 9-yard run to within two feet of the goal line. The second-year pro out of Division II West Georgia said he wasn’t surprised to get the carry in his 10th career game.
“I was just ready,” said Armah, who primarily played special teams a year ago. “I wasn’t too nervous because we practice it during the week. We go over it, so I really just tried to get into the end zone.”
Once he did, Armah chose not to give the ball away despite Newton’s pleading with him. He wanted to keep it to mark the milestone.
“I don’t blame him,” Rivera said.
AP stringers Eli Pacheco and Justin Parker contributed to this report.