Greg Olsen has been a member of the Seattle Seahawks for more than two months, but instead of being in Seattle for the first phase of offseason workouts, Olsen's interactions with his new team have been limited to virtual meetings—along with that one instance of being impersonated by an A-list celebrity on one of those meetings.
Olsen, a three-time Pro-Bowl tight end who is heading into his 14th season, acknowledges this isn't the best way to get acclimated to a new offense and a new team, but like everyone during this COVID-19 crisis, he's trying to make do the best he can.
"Obviously it's been very different from what I've been used to, and what everyone's been used to," Olsen said Tuesday on a virtual press conference. "It doesn't make it any easier in the fact that you're trying to transition to a new team a new organization—this is the first new offense I've learned in a long time. It would have been easier to do this in person. That was part of what I was looking forward to; I was looking forward to getting out there a couple of weeks back, just get familiar with the area get familiar with the guys on the team in the locker room. And then of course you know really be able to dive in on the offense and the scheme is a little bit more hands on approach. But we just wrapped up our meetings, they're doing a really good job. I think we're getting a lot done, considering the circumstances. Through technology nowadays, you can really have a lot of interaction, you can really have a lot of dialogue, and they're doing a nice job simulating it. The whole league—the whole world I guess for that matter—is kind of in the same boat, so we're making the best of it. It's not how I pictured it when I signed in February, but it's not just me; there's tons of guys throughout the league that are adjusting to new teams, new cities and haven't quite been able to get out there."
Olsen joins the Seahawks on the back end of a storied career that has seen him become one of the most prolific pass-catching tight ends in NFL history, and while plenty of people are assuming that Olsen is playing one last season before retirement—a future in broadcasting awaits him and there was speculation when the Carolina Panthers released him that he would retire—he said his only focus is on being the best he can be in 2020, and that he'll worry about his future after the season.
"If I wanted to go to TV, if I wanted to move on, I could have done it three years ago," he said. "I've been fortunate to have those opportunities, but this is really what I like doing. This has really been my passion my whole life. I've done it since I was a kid, I grew up with this game. And I know I can play, I know what I'm capable of. I know in my career what I've been able to achieve, but there's some things I still haven't been able to achieve, and that was really my main message to the teams that reached out (after he became a free agent). I said, I'm not just doing this to collect the paycheck and just extend my career. I've done all that I'm looking to go somewhere and win and perform at a high level and contribute. I'm not looking to ruin my career's work by just being a shell of myself in year 14. If I thought that was the case, I would have retired. I know what I can still do. I know how my body feels, and there's nothing that I can do now that I haven't been able to do you know years back."
For Olsen, part of knowing he can still play at a high level means that while he's happy to take on a leadership role as the most experienced player on the team, he by no means plans on coming in as an old man who will lead throughout the week then take a back seat to his younger teammates on gameday.
"While I'm going to be an open book and share where I can share and help where I can help, I told the team, 'Don't bring me in if you just want me to be like the big brother in the locker room,'" he said. "I'm here to play, first and foremost. I'm here to play. I'm here to perform at a high level and contribute, because I'm a big believer that your voice doesn't really matter if you can't play. And these guys don't care what I did years ago, they want to know, what can this guy do now? And I think the quickest way you can earn that respect to earn that validity in the locker room is by going out and playing and showing them what you can still do, and then the mentorship kind of comes from there."
When it comes to learning the offense, Olsen said there's plenty of similarity in terms of concepts, but that he has a lot of learning to do when it comes to terminology. As for getting ready, physically, when there is no offseason program taking place, he thinks he and other veterans, especially those who were around for the lockout in 2011, might have an advantage over younger players.
"I've been through this before, you know, with the lockout year where we just showed up to training camp, and it was just roll the ball out and let's go," he said. "So I've been used to training on my own and understanding what it takes to get myself ready for a season for a long time. I think the veterans probably have a better chance to kind of operate in this environment just due to the fact that they understand what it takes. Some of the young guys that really rely on that structure and really rely on that team kind of holding their hand saying, 'All right, here are steps one, two, three, and we'll kind of guide you into training camp and make sure you're ready,' I think that's going to be a challenge."
Olsen added that having so few distractions right now has allowed him to have a great offseason in terms of getting prepared for football from a physical standpoint, and however much time players have to get ready for a season, he says he'll be ready.
"Whenever they tell us to show up for training camp I'll show up and be fine," he said. "And I know if I can do it at 35, the 25-year-olds better be able to do it too. So I'm not worried about that. If they give us a couple weeks camp, a preseason game or two, it will be fine."
As for that team meeting last week when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll got actor Will Ferrell to join a team meeting doing a unique impersonation of Olsen, the real Greg Olsen enjoyed Ferrell's version, even if their midsections—Ferrell showed off his on the call, saying "my body is a temple"—might not look quite the same.
"I thought he did good," Olsen said. "I've got to find out who talked to him, because somebody gave him some good insight and some good background research. My core is better than his, which I guess will be good, but I thought it was great. I thought it was really, funny I got a kick out of it. That was a fun introduction to the group."
For now, Olsen's in-person introduction to the group has to wait, but the veteran tight end is excited to show his new team the type of player he is whenever that time arrives.
"The thing I always hope that the guys I've played with, both in the past and hopefully this locker room now that I joined, I hope that they say one thing about me: when this guy showed up, he really cares," Olsen said. "He cares about his teammates, he cares and he takes his job very seriously, he holds himself accountable before anybody else. I just hope that everyone sees that. Especially when you join a new team, you haven't been able to stash any credits away. Everything I do this will be the first time they ever seen me. I've played against them. They've kind of seen me from the other side of the field, but they've never been in meetings with me. They've never been in a workout with me, a practice, whatever. And I'm conscious to know that everything I do, that will be the first time they've ever seen me do it. So I hope they walk away saying, 'This guy takes his job seriously this guy cares about his teammates, and this guy's all-in to win, and this guy is all-in in everything he does.' and if they say that everything else will take care of itself."