Time Out For Sports: Former Panther Greg Olsen Retires And A Baseball Legend Passes
Football in the news a lot this past week. Among other things, the Panthers' new general manager went public and former Carolina tight end Greg Olsen announced his retirement. Plus, the Super Bowl teams have been decided. There was somber news in the sports world, too, when we learned baseball icon Hank Aaron died.
Langston Wertz Jr. with the Charlotte Observer joins WFAE's "All Things Considered" host, Gwendolyn Glenn, to talk about it all in the latest Time Out for Sports.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Hi, Langston!
Langston Wertz Jr.: Hi, Gwen, how are you?
Glenn: The Panthers' new GM, Scott Fitterer, was introduced on Friday to the local media and had a few interesting things to say about how team officials will approach rebuilding during the offseason.
Scott Fitterer (recording): "We’re gonna do a lot of transactions, we’re gonna look at a lot of people, bring a lot of people into the building, churn the roster on the back end. Just really take a look at a lot of people to see what’s out there, what fits our team and how we can build this going forward.”
Glenn: What’s your takeaway from that, Langston?
Wertz: I think, you know, he wants to rebuild a team, you know, the way he wants to in his image, so to speak. And I think he's letting you know that he's going to take a very active role. I mean, he's certainly different than the past GM we had here, Marty Hurney. He's more of an analytics guy, which is what the owner, David Tepper, wants. So he's letting you know that he's going to take a look at everybody on the roster and he wants to get to know everybody on the roster. And he's definitely trying to dance around the QB situation.
Glenn: Fitterer also says he wants to be heavily involved in every decision, and a big one is who will be the quarterback next season. Two names are coming up lately, Detroit’s Matt Stafford and Houston’s Deshaun Watson.
Wertz: Yes, Stafford's 32 years old. He's never won a playoff game. I think he's 0-3 or 0-4 in the playoffs. Watson's 25, just signed a four-year, $160 million deal. And he definitely seems to want out. You know, the Texans are kind of floating out there that they want three first-round draft picks and two second-rounds to part with him, but I don't think he'll be back with the Texans.
Glenn: Staying with the NFL, three-time Pro Bowler and tight end Greg Olsen, who spent nine years with the Panthers and last season with the Seattle Seahawks, announced on Sunday that he will be retiring. He’s had an amazing career and was the first tight end to have three consecutive 1,000-plus yards receiving seasons, but he’s 35, and hasn’t this been predicted?
Wertz: We knew that, you know, last year or this year, it was probably going to be his last year. He kept having these recurring foot injuries. And to me, he's had a gold jacket, career Hall of Fame-type career. I think he'll definitely have an outside chance of getting into the hall. And he's done things tight ends never done before, as you alluded to.
Patrick Mahomes (recording) : “The best thing about this team is that we believe in each other. And every time we hit the field, we leave everything we have. But the job’s not finished, we’re going to Tampa and we’re gonna try to run it back.”
Glenn: In two weeks, Super Bowl champs the Kansas City Chiefs will go up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the games leading up to the Super Bowl, the Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won over the Green Bay Packers. Langston, what was your take on those two games?
Wertz: I was a little surprised at the Green Bay game. I thought maybe they should have gone for a fourth-down conversion at the end of the game versus trying to kick a field goal. Giving Tom Brady the ball back knowing you need to have it. In the other game, once Patrick Mahomes was cleared to play for Kansas City, I did not think Buffalo could beat them. I've said all along that there was going to be a little pewter and a little blood red in the Super Bowl, and that's what we're getting. The TV ratings is going to be out of sight. It's going to be a great Super Bowl.
Glenn: On the high school front, on Friday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston stuck to his pause on all high school sports until February. Are some sports being hit harder than others due to this decision?
Wertz: Yeah, absolutely. Ernest Winston allowed the teams that have started the postseason to continue. And that was cross-country and that was volleyball. But if you're a swimmer, it ended your season. If you're a football player, you know, you're losing a week of practice. If you're a soccer player or lacrosse player, everybody else starts with those two sports today. You don't start until 20 days later, so you're going to miss half of your season. Basketball teams in Charlotte are going to play a five- or six-game season and not practice for a month just as the playoffs begin.
Glenn: And on a sad note, the sports world lost an icon this past week: The Home Run King, Henry "Hank" Aaron, died at the age of 86. Aaron spent the majority of his career with the Atlanta Braves, and it was in 1974 when, up against death threats and racism, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record by hitting that magic number, 715.
Wertz: Yeah, I mean, Hank Aaron was a hero, and to be able to focus when you're getting death threats and your kids are getting death threats and being the focus and do that type of thing was amazing. As he got older, he became a civil rights champion. You know, he encouraged Black athletes to stay in baseball. He's the first Black American to hold a senior management position in baseball. He really pushed to try to keep Blacks in important roles in the game. He's a very important figure. It's a terrible, terrible loss.
Glenn: And, Langston, in terms of local connections, in 2007, Aaron attended the groundbreaking for the now-Truist Stadium in Winston-Salem. He played there in 1952 when he was on the Negro League team the Indianapolis Clowns. in 2013, according to The State newspaper, Aaron threw out the first ball at a game at the Capital City Stadium when it was slated for demolition in Columbia, South Carolina. He actually played his last minor league game in Columbia in 1953 when he was with the Jacksonville Braves. Over his major league career, in addition to his 755 home runs, Hank Aaron had 3,771 hits and played in 25 Major League Baseball All-Star games.
Wertz: Yeah, in 1982, that was his first year of eligibility. He elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He received almost 98% of the votes with the second most all time to Ty Cobb, who was inducted in 1936. If you talk about the 10 greatest players in baseball, you got to mention Hank Aaron.
Glenn: Langston Wertz Jr. is a long-time sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.