Olsen: It’ll be hard for Panthers to replace Steve Smith

As a tandem with the Panthers, tight end Greg Olsen (left) and Steve Smith combined for 5,400-plus receiving yards and 31 touchdowns from 2011-13.

ATLANTA — The news of Steve Smith’s official release rippled out of Charlotte on Thursday, leaving a scattering of Carolina Panthers fans outside Bank of America Stadium protesting, vainly defying the departure of perhaps the greatest player in franchise history.

Those ripples reached Atlanta, as well.

While Smith was promising revenge if his next team takes on his now-former club in 2014 (below Tweet), his teammate, tight end Greg Olsen, expressed disappointment in losing one of the league’s most respected veterans.

Olsen was in town filming FOX Sports South’s upcoming NFL draft show, The Panel.

"I don’t know how you replace a guy like Steve Smith," said Olsen, a seven-year NFL veteran. "So I don’t really — it’s hard to really give an answer in that form. You know, it’s hard. This business is about change, and it’s about transition. We all know that our time, at some point, is going to be up.

"But on the other hand, there’s still a human element to this game. It’s still played by people and there are relationships. There’s feelings and all of the emotional aspects of it. So it’s hard to lose a guy like that and what he means as a guy, the type of guy he was, but also obviously what he meant to us on the field on Sundays."

Olsen was traded to the Panthers from the Chicago Bears following the 2010 season, and he’s put up a few of his best years — averaging 62 catches, 733 yards and five scores since 2011 — with Smith on the perimeter and Cam Newton at quarterback.

Smith did see his production fall off last season, logging 745 receiving yards and four touchdowns after surpassing the 1,100-yard mark in each of the past two seasons.

That aside, the former third-round pick out of Utah departs as the team’s all-time leading receiver in practically every category; and for a contender still searching for receiving help, the news was not digested easily.