When the Carolina Panthers took the field in Week one, they were looking for a positive start to the season. Playing in front of their home fans at Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers showcased their stout physical defense to defeat the Dallas Cowboys 16-8. They held the Cowboys to 232 yards of offense and an astounding two for 11 on third down.
Heading Into Week Two the Carolina Panthers Injuries Must Be Overcome
But the big news after the game was the injuries that Panthers players sustained during the Week one contest. In the first half, tight end Greg Olsen injured his foot (the same one he hurt last season) and was forced to leave the game. All-Pro right tackle Daryl Williams went down with a serious knee injury and did not return. However, Ron Rivera feels confident about his team’s depth in order to fill these voids.
“I said it to the guys, it’s about the depth we have right now. If something happens, you have to be the next guy to step up, you have to be ready to play,” Rivera said. “I really appreciated the way the guys came in and played and did their best to give us an opportunity.”
Not the First Time Olsen Has Battled An Injury
For all of Cam Newton‘s career, his tight end has been his favorite target. In his eight years at Carolina, Olsen has 447 receptions for 5,608 yards and 33 touchdowns, which just makes the news of Olsen re fracturing his foot even harder for Panthers fans to take.
“To say I am disappointed in this development would be an understatement,” says Olsen. “I believe my greatest career achievement has been my ability to play every game for over a decade. Unfortunately, the last two seasons have not continued that trend.”
“With that being said, we are optimistic this is not how my 2018 season will end.”
In Week two last season against the Buffalo Bills, Olsen went down with a similar foot injury. He had surgery and was forced to miss nine games. Unlike last year, however, the tight end believes that he will return to the team at some point this season. By opting to not have surgery Olsen is demonstrating his toughness and his willingness to conquer adversity for the betterment of the team. By signing a two-year extension the tight end hopes to continue to have success, similar to his three consecutive seasons from 2014-2016 where he had at least 1,000 receiving yards each season.
While Olsen is hopeful, the injury to Daryl Williams seems much less so The Panthers expect him to have surgery and he will be placed on injured reserve. Amini Silatolu, who has played 48 games in his career for the Panthers, will replace Williams on the offensive line.
Panthers Ron Rivera Praises Depth Amid Injuries
The losses of Olsen and Williams will hurt the Panthers, but the team is hopeful that their roster depth means others players can make an impact while the injured players recover. No team goes through a season without injuries, as Cam Newton has alluded, so now the Panthers must make the proper adjustments to be successful.
“If it is concerning, I’ve still got to do something. And if it’s not concerning, I’m still going to have to do what I’ve got to do anyway,” Newton stated. “At the end of the day, this is the National Football League where I don’t think 32 teams in a year in the history of the football season has all not had injuries.”
Ron Rivera is very comfortable about the replacements for the positions. Rookie Ian Thomas will take over for Olsen, and he and the team hope he becomes a formidable target for the offense.
“There are some things, obviously, that he still has to learn, and he has a long way to go in terms of having the natural feel that Greg has and having that rapport Greg has,” Rivera said. “He’s got to get better as a route runner, a blocker and a receiver. He’s a young guy. There’s a lot to his game he’s got to learn.”
“Ian has all the traits to be a true NFL tight end,” Olsen said. “He’s strong enough. He can engage at the line of scrimmage. He’s smooth. He’s faster than you think he is. He catches the ball well. So I think Ian has a chance to have all the traits to be a complete guy.
The Panthers take on their first divisional opponent of the season in the Atlanta Falcons. They have a huge opportunity to extend their division lead with a win on the road. But their ability to battle the injury bug will be put to the test this season. It will not be easy but the coaching staff is confident about their chances.