Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen could potentially be a top candidate for a coveted broadcasting job that opened up on Thursday morning.
But according to head coach Ron Rivera, Olsen has informed him that he wants to play in 2019.
The Dallas Cowboys announced on Thursday that they had re-signed tight end Jason Witten, who most recently held an analyst position on ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast.
That means ESPN will re-shuffle its broadcast talent, and likely search for another option to replace Witten.
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The Cowboys’ announcement came on the heels of a Wednesday report by the New York Post that said Olsen, 33, was being pursued by both FOX and ESPN for broadcasting positions — though the positions were not specified.
A league source told the Observer on Wednesday afternoon that Olsen, who had a second surgery in December to repair the right foot he originally fractured during the 2017 season, has been rehabilitating at the team’s facilities and working out on his own.
“I know this much, Greg has told me he wants to play,” said Rivera, speaking at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Thursday morning. “And so going forward, I’m very happy with that.”
Olsen’s contract extension runs through the 2020 season. He has long expressed interest in a broadcasting career after he leaves the NFL.
He joined ESPN’s “Postseason NFL Countdown” show in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII, his second consecutive Super Bowl Sunday guest broadcast, and helped call the Week 11 game between the Vikings and the Rams (he was on injured reserve at the time) in 2017.
Injuries and his two surgeries, the first of which took place in 2017, have greatly limited Olsen the past two years — a rare occurrence in his highly productive career, which includes three Pro Bowl berths and an historic three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
The sentiment within the Panthers’ organization has been that Olsen is not quite ready to retire, particularly in light of a disappointing 2018 season. Olsen refractured his foot in Week 1, attempted to rehabilitate it for the next several weeks and returned to the field. But he suffered a season-ending foot injury unrelated to the previous refracture in Week 14 and finished the year on injured reserve.
“Greg is still a very valuable player,” said Rivera. “And plus, knowing what he went through, the type of (surgery) he had, it’s supposed to be better than last year’s fix ... I feel very confident that he’ll be back.
“Until he tells me otherwise, I’m expecting he’ll be back.”
The Panthers are confident that Olsen can continue to play a crucial role in 2019.
But if he does become a candidate for the broadcasting position, he would be faced with a tough decision that affords him rare opportunity on both sides: Finish his NFL career in 2019 or 2020, hopefully healthy and on his own terms, or seek out the coveted role of Monday Night Football analyst.