CHARLOTTE – Fullback Christian McCaffrey, a Pro Bowl selection two of the past three seasons, is staying in Carolina.
Tolbert, who would have become an unrestricted free agent later today, signed a two-year contract to remain with the Panthers hours before the new league year started.
"I had some other places to go, but this is home for me. I'm excited to be back," said Tolbert, adding that the Panthers' push toward winning a Super Bowl also played a role in his decision. "We have the team to do it. That's the main reason why I came back.
"We're going to rebound and try to make another run at it."
In four seasons with the Panthers, Tolbert has been a versatile weapon with the ball in his hands – accounting for nearly 1,600 yards as a complementary ballcarrier - but he hasn't needed the ball to be a headache for opposing defenses.
Tolbert's bruising playing style takes a physical toll on defenders, but his unique body style usually absorbs the toll it could take on him. Tolbert did miss half of the 2014 season with a knee injury, but the Panthers thought enough of his value to place their one annual injured reserve/designate for return tag of him. When he did return, the Panthers rallied to win the NFC South. His other three seasons in Carolina, Tolbert played in every game.
"Mike is unique. There are very few guys in the league like him," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "He's got running back skills. He's got excellent hands. He's smart. He knows how to play the game. This is a classic case of the role that has been designed for his talents is perfect for him.
"We're really glad to have him."
With the Panthers, Tolbert has totaled 878 yards on the ground with 13 rushing touchdowns, and he's caught 84 passes for 699 yards and five touchdowns.
A Georgia native who went undrafted out of Coastal Carolina, Tolbert spent his first four NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers, where he totaled 20 rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns.
"There's only one of me," Tolbert said. "You name another fullback in the league that can do what I do – running back, fullback, special teams, even tight end sometimes."
By the same token, Tolbert believes there's only one Carolina.
"This is special," he said. "I'm happy that I am back and a part of it."