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If you are like me and love a power running game, you should be excited about Carolina Panthers rookie fullback Lee Ward out of Stanford. Listed at 5'11 and 246 pounds, Ward earned an offseason contract and camp invitation by impressing the coaching staff at this year's rookie camp. "A bruising, blocking fullback. Someone that opens up running lanes. A road grader." That is how Lee Ward described himself to me after practice recently. "It's enjoyable. I have no problem blocking .... Read the Full Article
Every so often in the NFL a player elevates his game in such a way it redefines the game. At this week's Carolina Panthers OTA session, Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert showed he not only has the ability to play quarterback, but succeed at the highest level. Before practice on Thursday, Tolbert gathered his troop of running backs and began his own passing drills, showcasing his form and accuracy to the media. Took note, we did. Tolbert quickly displayed all of the needed skills any successful quarterback in the NFL must posses. Without leadership, a quarterback can never really be considered a success. But leadership is much more than barking orders. It requires different levels of understanding. Tolbert was willing to listen to suggestions from his guys. Tolbert was willing to make corrections and give positive reinforcement when needed. Being a multi-skilled player, Tolbert was also able to explain the finer points of route running and catching the football. His troops listened and executed his instructions to perfection. Indeed, Tolbert's communication ability is top notch. At the end of the session, it was crunch time. Tolbert had just a few seconds more to prove to head coach Ron Rivera he needed to be taken seriously as a quarterback. The media stood and watched as Tolbert put everything together for the winning drive. First, Tolbert had to choose his weapon. Of course, he went with Jonathan Stewart. All smart quarterbacks look to their most valuable players in their greatest time of need. For Tolbert, Stewart was that guy. J-Stew had an idea, a devious play call that he felt comfortable with. Tolbert, knowing when to listen, took in the suggestion from the scheming Stewart. And then, it was time to execute. Stewart made his move on Rookie Cameron Artis-Payne. Then, as quickly as he started, Stewart stopped and just stood there. Mike Tolbert, knowing the exact moment to seize the victory threw a perfectly placed jump ball, taking advantage of Stewart's athletic ability and minimizing any risk of an interception. Stewart leaped majesticly and snatched victory out of the air. So high, in fact, he leaped out of my camera frame. Head coach Ron Rivera took notice, with a look that seemed to be a mix of "wow that was impressive" and "Hey Mike, stop goofing around". The Carolina Panthers now know they have another Pro Bowl caliber quarterback on the roster if in need. Mike Tolbert.... Quarterback. View full article