Five Panthers selected to Pro Bowl


CHARLOTTE – Linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive end Greg Hardy, center Ryan Kalil, fullback Mike Tolbert and quarterback Cam Newton will represent the Panthers in the 2014 Pro Bowl.

After having no Pro Bowlers last season, the five selections are the most for the Panthers since the team had seven in 1996.

First-time Pro Bowlers Kuechly and Hardy will represent Carolina's top-ranked scoring defense.

In his second year, Kuechly has taken charge of a defense that also ranks second in the NFL in total yards allowed. The 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year has started all 15 games and leads the Panthers with 167 tackles. He also has posted two sacks and is tied for the team lead with four interceptions.

"It's an honor to be selected to the Pro Bowl," Kuechly said. "I've grown up watching the games at the end of the season, and it's awesome to have a chance to be a part of it. I would like to thank the players, coaches and fans who voted for me. Our defense has played great this year and made this possible."

Hardy has recorded a team-leading 11 sacks in his fourth season. He's also compiled a team-best 34 quarterback pressures and ranks first among the team's defensive linemen with 62 tackles.

This will be Newton's second Pro Bowl appearance. He previously played as an alternate following his rookie season in 2011 when he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 2013, Newton has produced career-highs with a 62.1 completion percentage, 22 passing touchdowns and 89.2 passer rating. He's thrown for 3,230 yards and rushed for 513 yards with six touchdowns.

Kalil is making his fourth Pro Bowl appearance after being selected three consecutive years from 2009-11. He missed the final 11 games of the 2012 season with a Lisfranc injury to his left foot and has returned to start every game for Carolina in 2013.

"I am a firm believer you are only as good as the guys you play next to. As a center, I have good guards and credit goes to the offensive line as a whole when you run and protect," said Kalil, the Panthers' 2013 Ed Block Courage Award winner. "I also have one of the best offensive line coaches in the game in John Matsko, who has helped me grow as a player."

Tolbert has earned his first Pro Bowl selection by scoring a team-high seven touchdowns (five rushing and two receiving) and thriving as Carolina's short-yardage and goal line back. Of Tolbert's 94 carries, 31.9 percent have resulted in first downs -- a percentage that ranks first in the NFL among running backs and fullbacks.

"It's a big honor, because it shows all the hard work I put in pays off in the way I've been able to help my team win and by doing everything the coaches ask of me." Tolbert said. "It's a great feeling."

The Pro Bowl no longer features the AFC versus NFC matchup that has existed since 1971. This year players were selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. Players will later be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, which will air on NFL Network on Wednesday, January 22 at 8 p.m. ET.

The 2014 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 26 and televised live on NBC at 7 p.m. ET from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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