By Tim Booth | The Associated Press
RENTON — When Greg Olsen put off a broadcasting career for at least one more season in the NFL, he was looking for a different experience.
Not better than what he had in his previous stops in Chicago or Carolina — both places he thoroughly enjoyed. Just different.
“There’s a lot of energy, as you said. The first day I’m looking around like, ‘What the hell?’” Olsen said of his first practice with the Seattle Seahawks. “It’s just not something I’m used to. But it’s fun. It’s contagious. You find yourself really enjoying practice, really looking forward to practice. The coaches are into it. The staff is into it. I mean, if you’re on the field, everyone at any moment could bust into a celebration.”
Olsen decided in the offseason to stay on the field and not move to the press box quite yet, hoping to prove, even at 35 years old, he can still be one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.
But he’ll be part of a deep group of tight ends with the Seahawks that also includes the return of Will Dissly after his previous two seasons were cut short by major injuries.
“The best thing is they’re both the same type of guy,” Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “They’re all in. They love it. They love to compete. They love football. Football is important to them. It’s not about them, they’re very selfless. So yes, it is exciting.”
It’s a position of great depth for Seattle that goes beyond just Olsen and Dissly. Seattle also brought back Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson and took rookie Stephen Sullivan late in the draft as a developmental project.
But Olsen and Dissly will be the primary options. For Olsen, it’s his first training camp in a different location since 2011, when he first arrived in Carolina. So acclimating to a new camp has been part of the challenge on top of learning Seattle’s offense.
“It’s probably as talented a group as I’ve been in from top to bottom,” Olsen said. “We’re getting six guys reps, which is probably the most in any camp that I’ve been a part of.”
Olsen hasn’t played a full season since 2017, but last year appeared in 14 games for the Panthers and had 52 receptions. He may not be the target he was in the mid-2010s, when he had four straight seasons of more than 70 receptions, but with how Seattle uses the tight end in its offensive packages, he can still be a major factor.
Dissly had his rookie season in 2018 cut short after just four games because of a torn patellar tendon. He rehabbed to get himself ready for the 2019 season, only to have his second year end after six games due to an Achilles tendon injury. When he got hurt against Cleveland, Dissly already had 23 receptions and four touchdowns and was on his way to a breakout-type season.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said the reports he received from where Dissly did his rehab work in Southern California were unlike any he’d heard before. Dissly was determined not to be limited when the Seahawks began training camp earlier this month.
“We’re thrilled about Will’s progress,” Carroll said. “But then again because of the way he’s been, I’m not surprised that somebody would say that he’s been the hardest worker, the most diligent grittiest guy that they’ve ever seen come through the program.”
Dissly said having consecutive seasons cut short by major injuries was tough mentally, but going through the rehab work on his knee helped in committing to what was needed to recover from the Achilles injury.
“Everyone was there for me, giving me support, telling me I could do it and just encouraged me to stay strong and be positive,” Dissly said. “It was hard to stay in the dumps when you had that much support. Once we got the ball rolling, it was kind of go into to work mode. Surgery was really successful and then it was just my job to get back and prove those people right that were counting on me to get back.”