SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Panthers' backfield may look a little different this season, but fullback Mike Tolbert firmly believes the group has what it takes to flourish.
DeAngelo Williams, Tolbert's good friend and the franchise's all-time leading rusher, was released after nine seasons in Carolina. Tolbert was asked how the Panthers will handle not having that big name carrying the football.
"We don't necessarily need the name power," Tolbert said. "It's always been a stable, and it's still a stable of running backs. We may not be at the Kentucky Derby, we may be at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but we are some horses back there ready to roll."
Jonathan Stewart is the lead horse for the first time in his career. He was the NFL's second leading rusher during the last five games of the 2014 regular season with 486 yards, and that powerful finish has inspired a lot of confidence.
"Jonathan is here for a reason," Tolbert said. "He's healthy and he ended the season with a splash. We are going to try to build on that momentum."
Fozzy Whittaker is the fastest horse in the stable, and Tolbert thinks he has a "firm grasp" on the No.2 running back spot.
What horse is Tolbert?
"I might be the horse that got shot out back," he said with a laugh.
All jokes aside, Tolbert knows he plays a vital role as a fullback who functions as a short-yardage bulldozer. And he's a slightly smaller horse after losing some weight this offseason.
"Started at 265. I'm down to 250 right now," Tolbert said. "I'm feeling good."