For 14 years, Greg Olsen subjected his body to intense physical punishment as an NFL tight end. During his time in the league, the longtime Carolina Panthers star overcame several serious injuries that threatened to derail his career. While he no longer needs to worry about taking a hit from a linebacker, Olsen has a much more important issue to deal with at the moment: his son’s health.
On Monday, the 36-year-old took to Twitter to share a critical update about a truly trying situation.
Greg Olsen brought his NFL career to an end in January
The Chicago Bears made Olsen the penultimate pick of the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. He quickly developed into a key part of the offense thanks to his receiving skills. But after catching 194 passes for 1,981 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first four years with the team, the Bears traded the talented tight end to the Panthers for a third-round pick.
For Olsen, the move completely changed his career.
Cam Newton wasted no time forming a connection with Carolina’s new starting tight end. And by his second season with the Panthers, Olsen served as the focal point of the offense. From 2012-16, he averaged 77 catches for 969 yards while totaling 27 touchdowns. That level of production — which included three straight seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards — helped Olsen earn Pro Bowl honors on three occasions.
Unfortunately for Newton, his top target suffered foot injuries in 2017 and 2018 that limited him to only 17 games. Olsen only spent one more year in Carolina before the team released him. He then signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Once again, though, a major foot injury caused the veteran to miss time.
After suiting up in 199 regular-season games for three teams, Olsen signed a one-day contract with the Panthers on March 11 that allowed him to retire as a member of the organization.
The former Panthers star shares critical update about his son’s heart condition
As he embarks on a new chapter of his life as an NFL analyst for Fox Sports, Olsen faces a major challenge that has nothing to do with football.
TJ, his 8-year-old son, has faced serious heart issues since birth. According to ESPN, his congenital heart defect required four surgeries, including three open-heart operations. Although TJ has reportedly led “as typical of a childhood as possible” over the years while living with a modified heart, his father shared some sobering news on Monday that reflects the gravity of his health situation.
“Unfortunately, it seems his heart is reaching an end. We are currently working through the process to determine our next steps, which ultimately could lead to a heart transplant,” Olsen wrote in a Twitter thread.
He followed with, “We are so thankful for the incredible support we have received over the years. We have received world-class care at Levine Children’s Hospital and we are so appreciative of their amazing team.”
Maintaining a positive outlook
As someone who generated widespread respect from teammates, coaches, and opponents, Olsen has plenty of supporters in his family’s corner. So once the world learned about the latest development concerning his son’s life-threatening heart condition, members of the sports community reached out to the retired NFL tight end.
“Sending some strength & prayers your way Greg…love to TJ,” wrote three-time Pro Bowler Shaun O’Hara.
Dan Orlovsky, a retired NFL quarterback and current football analyst for ESPN, responded to Olsen’s update by saying he’s praying “for you guys as a family and your little guy man.”
Stephania Bell, a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist who works as ESPN’s injury analyst, also sent a supportive message on Twitter.
“Sending all the hugs and well wishes to the Olsen family,” she wrote.
While the future remains uncertain, it’s clear Olsen and his family won’t give up hope. Rather, they seem motivated to stay positive as TJ’s journey continues.
“We don’t know how long we will be within these hospital walls. We do know that we are in full control of our attitudes and our outlook,” Olsen tweeted. “TJ has been a fighter since birth. We are going to get through this as a family and be better off as a result of this experience.”
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.