Merlin Olsen, who helped form one of the NFL's greatest defensive lines before embarking on a successful career in television, died Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 69.
The Hall of Fame defensive tackle was a member of the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” along with Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier in the 1960s. He later starred on NFL broadcasts, commercials, as Jonathan Garvey on the TV series “Little House on the Prairie” and as the title character in “Father Murphy.”
“He was ferocious and fearless on the football field and then the other probably more important aspect of his personality was he was a true gentleman,” said fellow Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood, his teammate with the Rams in Los Angeles.
Olsen was diagnosed last year with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining often linked to asbestos.
Olsen was a consensus All-American at Utah State and won the 1961 Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman. The Rams drafted him third overall in 1962, and he spent the next 15 years with the team and is still the franchise’s career leader in tackles with 915. He was named to 14 straight Pro Bowls.
Free agent quarterback Jake Delhomme, released last week by the Carolina Panthers, visited with the Cleveland Browns. … Quarterback Matt Moore signed his one-year offer to stay with the Panthers. … The Oakland Raiders released veteran defensive tackle Gerard Warren. … The Buffalo Bills re-signed tight end Joe Klopfenstein. … Safety Brodney Pool, whose career appeared to be threatened by head injuries, agreed in principle to a one-year contract with the New York Jets. … Restricted free agent safety Josh Bullocks signed his one-year offer to stay with the Chicago Bears. … The Arizona Cardinals re-signed offensive tackle Jeremy Bridges to a three-year contract.