Even though he had been the Bears’ first-round draft pick only four years before, former tight end Greg Olsen wasn’t shocked when they traded him to the Panthers before the 2011 season. It wasn’t the first time they had put him on the trade block.
The Bears hired Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator after the 2009 season, and it was clear from some comments he made he didn’t value the tight end position.
Before the 2010 draft, then-general manager Jerry Angelo called Olsen into his office to tell him the Bears had a trade on the table with the Patriots. Depending on how the draft unfolded, Olsen might be moved.
The deal never went down because Rob Gronkowski fell to the Patriots in the second round. Angelo called Olsen back in after the draft and told him the Bears wouldn’t entertain any more trade offers for him.
But even after a solid season by Olsen and a run to the NFC Championship Game by the Bears, Angelo sent him to the Panthers for a third-round pick. Olsen went on to become a three-time Pro Bowl player.
On Sunday in Cleveland, Olsen will get his first look at the Bears from the broadcast booth, where he’ll join play-by-play voice Kevin Burkhardt to call their game against the Browns for Fox.
‘‘I know it ended the way it did, but my memories and experiences in Chicago, I love that city, the fans and playing there,’’ said Olsen, 36. ‘‘Even though it was short, there’s so much that I look back on in Chicago that laid the foundation for me to have a long, successful career. Jerry obviously traded me, but he was good to me; he drafted me. I have no ill will toward any of those guys.’’
Sunday will mark only his third game since joining Fox after retiring as a player in the offseason. But he’s living up to his billing on the network’s No. 2 team. Olsen sounds like a natural. He’s smooth in and out of his dialogue with Burkhardt, he’s sharp with his analysis and he’s good for a laugh.
‘‘He’s gonna be a star,’’ said Burkhardt, 47. ‘‘He wants to be great, and he wants to be a great teammate. He fits right in with our entire group seamlessly, and he’s been with us for two games. He comes up with ideas. We bust each other’s chops. We have a long way to go, but it’s been a really fun start.’’
Fox put Olsen in a great spot with Burkhardt, an excellent, easygoing lead voice. Their relationship dates back 20 years to Olsen’s days at Wayne Hills High School in North Jersey. Burkhardt’s first job out of college was at WGHT, a 1,000-watt AM-radio station, and he called some of Olsen’s games.
‘‘His dad, Chris, was the coach, and he was always so good to us,’’ Burkhardt said. ‘‘We would go to his office on Friday, and he would break down film with us. So, essentially, one of my first production meetings was with his dad.’’
Olsen’s broadcast career began organically. He had some TV opportunities in Charlotte while playing with the Panthers, and he enjoyed talking about the games. He eventually called two NFL games for Fox as an active player during the regular season, as well as five XFL games with Burkhardt in the offseason.
‘‘One thing led to the next opportunity,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘I said: ‘You know what? I think I could do this. I think I can put the time into getting better.’ I was fortunate Fox gave me those opportunities to test it out. Once I did that, I was pretty confident this was something I wanted to try whenever I was done playing.’’
Olsen said his biggest challenge has been learning the mechanics of the broadcast, particularly being able to hold a thought while the producer or director is talking in his headset. Olsen put in a lot of work during the offseason to understand how the show comes together, and Burkhardt has noticed.
‘‘He’s already, just from our rehearsal games, evolved so much from the summer to now,’’ Burkhardt said. ‘‘The hardest thing for any new person is to not overtalk. That, to me, is a broadcast-killer. And he doesn’t. He’s found the niche of saying things he sees, but he doesn’t talk to talk.’’
Olsen had plenty of plaudits for Burkhardt and the rest of the crew for easing his transition.
‘‘I know a lot of people say this, but the reality is the team I got put with has set me up to be successful,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘I just have to follow Kevin’s lead. He makes everything so smooth and easy. It’s so clear with every broadcast that Kevin has no ego. He wants to make his partner sound good and feel comfortable.
‘‘Now I gotta make sure I don’t suck.’’