When the Carolina Panthers added free agent Mike Tolbert two months ago to a backfield that already featured DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, some media pondered how Tolbert was going to be used.
“I’d like to think that I’m the missing piece,” Tolbert said. “The offense was ranked high (seventh) in total offense, and I’d like to think that I’m the missing piece to push us all the way to number one.
“Our potential is unlimited.”
Tolbert knows that his job will include “a lot of fullback stuff” and “a lot of different stuff.”
That’s good, because Tolbert did a lot of different stuff with the San Diego Chargers last year; he caught 54 passes last year, led the Chargers in rushing in 2010, and led the Chargers in special teams tackles twice.
“If you’re a ballplayer, you’re going to find a way to get on the field,” Tolbert said. “I’ve always prided myself on being able to catch the ball well and doing whatever I need to do to stay on the field – pass catching, blocking, running, whatever.
“You never know what’s going to happen. Guys get hurt every day – Stew might get hurt or I might get hurt of DeAngelo. I’m not wishing that on anybody, but it’s always better to have three than two or four than three.”
Tolbert also played at Coastal Carolina in college, and his family lives in nearby Georgia. So playing for the Panthers after being in California so long is a homecoming of sorts.
“Being this close to home helps,” Tolbert said. “I don’t have to buy as many plane tickets like when I was on the West Coast. People can just drive up.”
Tolbert was also quick to praise the offense the Panthers have put together, making special note of his fellow running backs and of course last year’s rookie sensation Cam Newton.
“You can’t forget about Cam. He’s the ultimate weapon – run, pass – he can do it all,” Tolbert said. “If he’s willing to give them up, I’m willing to take them. They call me the vulture for a reason.
“Some people say I have a knack for it. When I see a white line, I just make sure I get across it with the ball.”
That will be welcome news to Cam Newton and together, the Panther backfield will attempt to surpass last year’s successes.