No cutdown day drama this year for Ex-Beaver Olszewski

2nd-year pro makes Patriots' 53-man roster

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Gunner Olszewski runs with the football during a recent practice with New England in Foxborough, Mass. (Eric J. Adler / Courtesy of the New England Patriots)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Roster cut day was much less dramatic for Gunner Olszewski this season. But for good reason.

Unlike last year , there was little doubt heading into Saturday that the second-year pro out of Bemidji State would make the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster. Unsurprisingly, Olszewski was not among the 24 players cut by the team Saturday afternoon to reach the 53-man limit.

The converted defensive back turned heads in training camp this summer with the progress he’s made at wide receiver. Olszewski appeared in eight games in an injury-shortened rookie season, mostly as a punt returner, a role he’s expected to play once again in 2020.

Olszewski’s improvement drew praise from head coach Bill Belichick in camp.

The pride of Alvin, Texas, Olszewski didn’t have a chance to prove himself with a slate of preseason games this year. They were wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, though that turned out to be unnecessary for the New England fan favorite.


The former Beaver will be snagging passes from a new quarterback this fall.

Gone is future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, who made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason in departing for Tampa Bay.

In his wake, the Patriots went out and signed former MVP Cam Newton as their new-signal caller. From what Boston reporters have observed in preseason practice, Newton likes what he sees.

Olszewski also impressed when he beat cornerback Stephon Gilmore -- the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year -- with a sideline catch in practice last month.

“He’s definitely gotten better,” Gilmore said recently on a conference call. “I think he’s gotten stronger, gotten quicker. The longer you’re in that offense the better so he has definitely taken a step from last year, competing against him, you know he’s going to go hard every snap. That’s one thing about him, he’s very fearless, he doesn’t care. That’s the way you have to be to be a good receiver in this league.”

Among the other receivers to make the roster Saturday: Damiere Byrd, N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman and Jakobi Meyers.


One noteworthy name not to make the team: veteran wideout Mohamed Sanu. Once considered a lock to make the cut, the eight-year pro was released on Thursday.

Edelman, the Super Bowl MVP whom Olszewski is often compared to, has served as a role model of sorts for the young receiver early in his career.

“When I first got here, I wanted to be just like the Patriots greats like Troy Brown or Julian, but I learned quick that everybody moves differently and some stuff works for other people that don’t for other people,” Olszewski told NBC Sports Boston earlier this week when asked if there’s a receiver he’s tried to emulate as he’s transitioned to the position.

“Some advice that Jules gave me last year, he was like, ‘Don’t do what I do. You’ll find your way. You’ll figure out what works for you.’ So, not really, but obviously I see stuff that he does or other guys on our team like Mo Sanu does and I try to take bits and pieces. For the most part everybody is different with how they move so it’s just figuring it out for yourself a little bit.”

Olszewski is the third Bemidji State product to ever play in the NFL, all on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Al Wolden became the first NFL Beaver by suiting up for three games with Chicago in 1987, while tight end Brian Leonhardt played 16 games for Oakland and San Francisco in 2014-15.

The Patriots will kick off the season at home against the Dolphins on Sept. 13.

Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at
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