Olsen 'Can't Wait' to Get Going

The Bears have not drafted a tight end in the first round since Mike Ditka in 1961. Greg Olsen knows that expectations are high for him despite the fact that he's just a rookie, but he welcomes the challenge with open arms and can't wait to begin his NFL career. Although he may not live up to the hype, it certainly won't be because he buckled under the pressure he's facing.

While coming to an NFL team as the No. 1 draft pick is undoubtedly an honor, there's also the added responsibility to prove that the choice was a wise one. Most rookies are given much of their first year to acclimate to the system. The first player chosen, however, must demonstrate his worth sooner rather than later.

Add to this the fact that Bears fans have been clamoring for a young tight end for decades – since Mike Ditka joined the team in 1961 – and it could be quite a bit for a new player to deal with. But to hear a relaxed Greg Olsen talk, it's just business as usual.

"I'm having such a good time," Olsen said after the final day of OTAs on Wednesday. "No pressure at all. This experience is everything I had hoped for and so much more."

When asked how he felt after he got the call from Chicago this past April, Olsen smiled and said, "Completely fantastic. It was a dream come true."

But once that dream met reality during practices at Halas Hall, didn't Olsen feel the need to show something right away?

"Not at all," he claimed. "Remember, I came from one of the most high-powered college sports programs in the country. Everybody says that football at Miami is as close as you can come to the professional level while you are still playing as an undergrad. That was certainly the case for me. I started 26 of 33 games in college, but the pressured environment was very comfortable."

While Olsen felt at ease when he first took to the field in Lake Forest, he realized immediately that the steep learning curve would require some extra effort.

"The big part of the transition from college to the pros, at least for me, was to do what I have always done but much faster," he said. "The pace of football at this level is dazzling. A play will be half-way over before you realize it has even begun. I was a little bewildered at first, as all rookies tend to be, until the veterans stepped in."

Desmond Clark and John Gilmore soon assumed the role of mentors and helped Olsen break down the Bears' system into manageable components.

"It's interesting because everything is integrated," Olsen said. "That's how John and Des explained things. You can't run the plays without having learned the playbook. At the same time, the playbook doesn't make much sense until you are out there on the field going through the plays. Like all the young guys, I'm trying to learn as fast as I can. Desmond and John have helped me concentrate more on technique. That should really pay off come fall."

Olsen's goal for training camp is to avoid the common rookie mistake of overthinking.

Greg Olsen fetches a rare dropped ball as Bernard Berrian gives him a hard time

"I see the veterans out there, and I watch how they move," he said. "I'm thinking that I need to play better so I can match them. That just won't happen until I'm more experienced with the basics. The rookie mini camp as well as these OTAs have been invaluable in working through that problem. By the end of training camp, I hope to be to the point where I am playing by instinct, not thought."

Olsen realizes that Bears fans as well as the local sports media will be expecting significant production from him during his rookie year. The new TE views the added pressure as a positive rather than a negative.

"If I can be half as good initially as the current Bears players are now, I'll be happy," he professed. "I'll never stop learning. You can be sure that I'll be out here every day working to improve. I owe that to the team and to my own sense of pride. By the time the regular season begins, I'd like to be up to speed."

Between now and training camp, Olsen plans to stay around Halas Hall to work on his conditioning.

"I've heard all about camp and the physical toll it can take, and I want to be prepared." he said. "Having played in Miami, I'm accustomed to heat. But I still want to be certain that my body is ready to take the demands that will be put on it in August."

When asked if he's at all intimidated by the prospect of facing NFL legends across the line of scrimmage in September, Olsen just smiles.

"The Bears have some pretty intimidating guys as far as I can tell," he said. "I'm here to get better and to develop my game. If I can play respectable football against my teammates, I think I'll be ready for the regular season."

Olsen's other goal during the month before camp begins is to settle down in the Chicago area.

"I'm from New Jersey originally," he said. "Chicago was new to me until this past spring. I love the town. There's so much to do here. And what a football city. People recognize me on the street and welcome me to the area. That's great. I appreciate their interest and encouragement."

Before heading for the locker room, Olsen stopped to add one more thought.

"Tell the fans that I know that this year is going to be the most incredible experience of my life," he said. "I'm a hard worker, and I plan to be ready both physically and mentally to do whatever I can to help the offense. I can't wait for the season to begin."

Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for the last six years and is the Author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.

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