Former Bears tight end Greg Olsen gets last word at Super Bowl

Olsen is the lead analyst on Fox’s broadcast while the network waits for Tom Brady.

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Former Bears tight end Greg Olsen is Fox’s lead analyst in the Super Bowl.

Former Bears tight end Greg Olsen is Fox’s lead analyst in the Super Bowl.

Mike Comer/Getty Images

PHOENIX — Greg Olsen has gotten used to the question by now.

‘‘If I had a dollar for every Tom Brady question,’’ he said this week, ‘‘I would have his contract.’’

In May, Fox announced Brady would become its lead game analyst — alongside play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt — once he retired and would be paid a reported $375 million over 10 years to do so.

In the interim, Fox turned to Olsen — a first-round draft pick and standout tight end for the Bears in 2007-10 — who had been paired with Burkhardt in 2021.

Olsen, 37, knew right away that more people than ever would hear his voice this season because Fox held the rights to the Super Bowl. He tries not to think about exactly how many people will tune in, however. The NFL found that 208 million people — or about two-thirds of the U.S. population— watched at least part of the game last season.

Olsen’s one-year stint on Fox’s lead announcing team turned into two this week when Brady said he wouldn’t start broadcasting until 2024. The network, however, should consider finding a way to keep Olsen in a prominent role even when Brady is ready to go. In only his second full NFL season, Olsen has emerged as one of the best analysts in the game.

He’s football’s version of Conan O’Brien when Jay Leno returned for a second stint on ‘‘The Tonight Show’’: skilled and, because of the circumstances, also the people’s choice. Social media seems to love him.

‘‘As we all know,’’ Olsen said wryly, ‘‘the internet can change very quickly.’’

Part of Olsen’s charm is how he has dealt with being Brady’s seat-warmer. He’d love to call games with Burkhardt for another decade, but he knows that’s unlikely. He credits Fox for turning to him, even if it has made for an awkward situation. He swears it’s not a distraction this week, even though Brady retired only last week.

‘‘I’ve never shied away from it; I’ve never tried to hide in the corner,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘It is the reality of the situation. I’m a big boy. I know what I signed up for. My goal was to try to be good.’’

Olsen wasn’t sure whether he would be, but he vowed to see it through. In 2017, he became the third active player to serve as a Fox game analyst, calling one game. He did another in 2019. In 2020, he called XFL games with Burkhardt.

In 2021, the two were Fox’s No. 2 crew. They were bumped up to the top spot when Joe Buck and Troy Aikman went to ‘‘Monday Night Football.’’

Olsen studies the way he did as a player — ‘‘The hardest thing about any of these games is really everything up until the ball is kicked off,’’ he said — but tries not to sound rote. He typically brings more information than CBS’ lead analyst, Tony Romo, and does so without the breathless shtick. He’s noticing nuances now, watching a game and seeing the details of a Telestrator or texting a producer about how a broadcast crew edits replays so quickly.

Olsen never used to care about the announcers. With the Bears, he tried to block out the media as a rule.

‘‘It’s not an easy market,’’ he said of Chicago. ‘‘They were good to me at times, bad to me at times. They were probably better to me after I left, which I always found amusing. They would always write the nice things about me after I left town.’’

That’s because he was the one who got away.

‘‘That’s always how it works,’’ he said with a smile.

The Bears traded Olsen to the Panthers on the eve of training camp in 2011 when he was deemed incompatible with offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s system. He spent nine seasons with the Panthers, reaching three Pro Bowls. From 2011 until he retired after the 2020 season, Olsen trailed only Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce in receiving yards by a tight end.

It was one of the worst trades in Bears history.

‘‘I loved my time in Chicago,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘I loved playing there. The crowd, the fans, it had kind of a college vibe in the sense that people lived, breathed, died for Chicago football. We had some good moments there; I was able to experience some really good times.

‘‘But you learned at a young age that if you’re gonna get wrapped up in every headline and every news article and every reporter’s opinion of your third-down play and your blocking . . . ’’

Now he’s the critic on the biggest stage in sports.

‘‘You better be prepared for pretty much everything and be able to rattle it off and spit it out,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘For me, that’s the fun of it. That’s the challenge of why I was driven to calling games, as opposed to some of the other stuff. It’s hard to do.’’

The last time Olsen was part of a Super Bowl, in February 2016, he trudged off the field while the Broncos celebrated a 24-10 victory against his Panthers.

‘‘It is nice to know I don’t have that,’’ he said. ‘‘But there’s a different type of pressure, a different type of responsibility.’’

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