Panthers will take 'smart' route in Greg Olsen's return

A cornerstone of the Carolina Panthers' offense will be back on the field Sunday.

Greg Olsen, who hasn't played since suffering a broken foot in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills, was activated off injured reserve Friday and will play against the New York Jets.

"It's exciting," coach Ron Rivera said about Olsen's return, per Max Henson of the team's official website. "He's obviously a part of what we do, and we haven't had him for a while. We just feel good about getting him back, especially going into this final stretch of the season."

The return of the Pro Bowl tight end should give the Cam Newton-led Panthers offense an added boost as the team looks to usurp the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South over the final portion of the season. Sunday's game against the Jets presents a good opportunity for Olsen to get back up to speed before Carolina embarks on a slate of important games against the Saints, Vikings, Packers, Buccaneers and Falcons.

The comeback plan for Olsen on Sunday involves a measured dose of work.

"We're going to try to do it judiciously," Rivera said. "We've got to save him from himself and save him from us. You get a guy like that, you want to keep him out there as much as you can. But just knowing his conditioning and football shape isn't where it needs to be right now. ... You don't want to throw Greg out there and have him go 60 plays. So we really have to be smart."

Still, we could see Olsen make a little history in his first game back. The 11th-year pro, who has 7,393 career receiving yards, is only 19 yards away of passing former Philadelphia Eagles standout Pete Retzlaff for seventh all-time in career yards among tight ends.

Playing smart and judiciously has helped revive the Panthers after last year's disappointments. Having Olsen back on the field for the stretch run could go a long way in establishing Carolina as a very real threat in the NFC beyond the regular season.

"Greg is just a pro's pro," Newton said earlier this week. "With the addition of him ... it's just an extra piece to the puzzle that we've been long missing."