SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Lindsay H. Jones breaks down the three matchups that every NFL fan should make sure to watch this weekend. USA TODAY Sports
Before Greg Olsen returns to the field for the first time since suffering a broken foot in September, the Carolina Panthers tight end is going to spend Sunday in a Fox broadcast booth, providing color commentary for the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams.
Olsen told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday there was never any intention to gain pregame access to either team, including attending practice or production meetings. NFL Network reported that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman asked Fox to reassign Olsen, who could return to action by a Week 14 matchup against Minnesota, but the request was denied.
“From the beginning we had no false notions that I would be in production meetings, meeting with players or coaches. We never would,” Olsen said. “I understand where everyone is coming from, but these are things we thought through.”
Instead, Olsen is preparing for his debut in the broadcast booth by studying film, much like he would do if he were playing the Vikings or Rams. He spoke last summer to Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-broadcaster Troy Aikman about calling games, and has spoken this week to Fox’s Kevin Harlan and Charles Davis, whom he will join in the booth.
As soon as that game in Minnesota is over, Olsen will return to Charlotte, where he expects to return to practice with his Panthers teammates on Monday. Olsen is expected to be activated off injured reserve in time for Carolina’s game against the New York Jets on Nov. 26. He has not played since breaking his foot in Week 2.
“Everything has responded really well,” Olsen said. “That’s been our timeline and game plan all along, and so far things have gone according to that plan. We’re just going to stick it out for this last week and hopefully things come together this time next week.”
Olsen’s potential return comes as the Panthers’ offense is finally coming together. Carolina scored 45 points and amassed a franchise-record 548 yards in a win Monday night against the Miami Dolphins. At 7-3, the Panthers are a half-game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
“Anytime you come back after a team scored 45 points, you just hope you don’t come back and mess it up. I’m just going to hopefully not get in the way, find my groove and kind of find my spot in the offense again,” Olsen said. “I’m not necessarily going to go back to the way things were or how they were, just try to naturally become part of the offense again. Just try to be another complement to what they’re doing and the success they’ve had last night and the week before.”
Olsen spoke to USA TODAY Sports as part of his partnership with Microsoft’s Create Change program, as one of several players who is using Microsoft technology to advance their charitable work. For Olsen, his The HEARTest Yard foundation is using Surface tablets to connect pediatric cardiac patients directly with their doctors and nurses after returning home from the hospital. Olsen started his foundation five years ago after his son, T.J., was born with a congenital heart defect.
“With Microsoft and the Surface and the technology, we’ve been able to develop a custom program that integrates directly with the healthcare system. So when the information is inputted in the home, it immediately uploads and integrates with the system at the doctors’ offices. There is no more lag time. There’s no more waiting for your next appointment,” Olsen said. “It’s in real time keeping these doctors appraised of what’s going in the house with all the vital information. It’s really become a game-changer and it’s taken our program to another level.”
Follow Lindsay H. Jones on Twitter @bylindsayhjones.
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