He still works weekends at stadiums across the country, but there’s a lot more family time in Greg Olsen’s life these days.
The longtime NFL tight end, now the color commentator for Fox’s No. 2 broadcast team alongside Kevin Burkhardt, is able to be around more than if he were still playing, even though he remains busy and travels. And as his son TJ navigates the early stages of receiving a heart transplant – the operation took place in June – it couldn’t be a better arrangement for the Olsens.
“In that regard, it’s really nice for the home life,” Olsen told USA TODAY Sports.
TJ, born with a rare congenital heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, is back in school, playing sports and living a “fairly normal life all things considered,” Olsen said.
TJ Olsen, now 9, endured three open heart surgeries in three years before the transplant. Greg Olsen’s foundation created an initiative called “The HEARTest Yard,” which is dedicated to TJ and provides relief to families of pediatric cardiovascular patients.
“He’s really doing well,” Olsen added. “We kind of go checkup at a time. So far, the checkups have gone really well, and the doctors are happy with how his body’s kind of healing and adapting to a new heart. It’s a wild thing, but he’s doing really well.”
Former player Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers reacts during the football game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Bank of America Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Olsen typically flies home Sunday night after he calls his game and then reserves Monday for family and decompressing. His prep for the next week’s game begins Tuesday, but the nature of the job allows him to work wherever; he can watch film while traveling or or take a call from a waiting room.
If he has no “Thursday Night Football” studio responsibilities, that means he can spend Monday through Friday at home, doing things he couldn’t do while playing, like picking up and dropping off TJ and his other two children from school, coaching flag football or being a soccer parent.
Missing those events while away on the weekend still stings, Olsen said, but the tradeoff has been worth it.
“I think that’s come at a good time,” Chris Olsen, Greg’s father, said of his son’s retirement. “TJ is doing better right now. Starting to put on some weight, starting to get some strength back.
“The doctors told us it was going to be a process. They said it was going to be a year or so before we started getting him back to where we need him to be.”
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.