On November 19, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen will serve as a Fox game analyst for the Vikings’ matchup with the Rams, becoming only the third player in network history (along with Matt Hasselbeck and Marcus Allen) to call a game while still active.
While Olsen figures to offer some interesting insight as an active player, not everyone is thrilled with the arrangement. According to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman has voiced an objection to the NFL and Fox, pointing out that Olsen, currently out with a broken foot, will be on the field when the Panthers play the Vikings on Dec. 10. His preparation for the Vikings-Rams game, Spielman feels, will give him an unfair advantage. Spielman reportedly requested that Olsen be assigned to a different game, but was rebuffed by Fox.
#Vikings GM Rick Spielman tells me he has spoken with the NFL and FOX to express the team feels it’s inappropriate to have #Panthers TE Greg Olsen in broadcast booth for their game vs. #Rams on Sunday. Olsen can come off IR soon. #Vikings at #Panthers on Dec. 10.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 14, 2017
The Vikings have somewhat of a point here. Olsen is expected to be activated Week 12 against the Jets, a week after his Fox cameo and two weeks before the Panthers play Minnesota. Typically, broadcasters meet with coaches and players before the game they’re calling to get a behind-the-curtain look at the teams’ preparation and strategies. Obviously it would be awkward for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and company to give up secrets to a guy who will be trying to beat them weeks later. Even if Olsen were not going to be healthy to face Minnesota, he would still be able to pass along information to his coaches and teammates.
But in a statement provided to Awful Announcing on Tuesday, Fox said the network “fully respect[s] the Vikings concerns and will limit the amount of pre-game access allowed to Greg.” Olsen also told USA Today that he never intended to gain inside access on the Vikings.
“From the beginning we had no false notions that I would be in production meetings, meeting with players or coaches. We never would,” Olsen said. “I understand where everyone is coming from, but these are things we thought through.”
He elaborated to NFL.com, saying watching the game as a broadcaster will be no different from watching game film.
“FOX called me a couple night ago to kind of tell me some of the concerns of the Vikings,” Olsen said. “I understood where they were coming from. I think once we made it clear to everyone involved that by no means did we ever intend to go to any practice, or being in a production meeting, interviewing the players, the coaches and getting behind the scenes info like what would traditionally happens in a production meeting, I think everyone kind of understood a little better.”
Olsen added: “I don’t know if the Vikings still do but the way we think about it — nothing I’m going to see from that booth a million miles in the sky is any different than what we would see on a game film. I’m going to watch that Rams-Vikings game a hundred times between now and then, getting ready to play them. Whether I see it live from the same angle or see it on film, I don’t think thereâs really too much advantage that I or the Panthers would have.”
Prohibiting Olsen from going behind the scenes with the Vikings should quell Spielman’s concern, but it also means the tight end will be a bit less informed than the usual broadcaster. Having an active player in the booth is a cool idea, but it’s fair to wonder whether the set-up is more trouble than it’s worth.