Four Panthers named All-Pro
Four Carolina Panthers have been selected All-Pro by the Associated Press, matching the franchise record set in 1996.
Three are considered the best in the NFL at their positions this year. Fullback Mike Tolbert, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and center Ryan Kalil were voted first-team All-Pro.
Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy was a second-team selection.
Tolbert is one of the most versatile running backs in the league. At 5-9 and 250 pounds, he's a powerful lead blocker.
He carries the ball more than most NFL fullbacks, lining up as the tailback at times. The 28-year-old Tolbert, who played at Coastal Carolina, has 101 carries for 361 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Tolbert, Kuechly and Hardy are All-Pros for the first time, while Kalil (6-2, 300) is a two-time selection; he made second-team All-Pro in 2011.
The Panthers drafted Kalil 59th overall in 2007 out of Southern Cal and he turned out to be a steal.
A four-time Pro Bowl selection, the 28-year-old Kalil became the highest-paid center in the NFL when he signed a six-year contract worth $49 million in 2011.
Kuechly has taken the league by storm as well since the Panthers drafted him ninth overall in 2012. Just 22 years old, Kuechly has 320 tackles in his first 32 NFL games — the most of any player in the league during that stretch.
Kuechly led the NFL in tackles as a rookie with 164, and has followed it up with 156 tackles this season.
The NFC South champions have a highly-regarded defense that helped them go 12-4 and earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Carolina will play at home in the second round next Sunday.
Hardy, in his fourth year, had seven of his 15 sacks in the final two games of the regular season.
The 28-year-old Hardy (6-4, 290) has the size and athleticism to wreak havoc from any position on the defensive line. He sometimes slides from end to tackle to give the Panthers more speed on passing downs.
A sixth round pick in 2010 who is playing for $1.25 million this season, Hardy is expected to hit a big payday in the offseason.
2013 NFL All-Pro Team
(by The Associated Press)
Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Denver
Running backs:_LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia; Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
Fullback: Mike Tolbert, Carolina
Tight end: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
Wide receivers: Calvin Johnson, Detroit; Josh Gordon, Cleveland
Tackles: Joe Thomas, Cleveland; Jason Peters, Philadelphia
Guards: Louis Vasquez, Denver; Evan Mathis, Philadelphia
Center: Ryan Kalil, Carolina
Placekicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore
Kick returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota
Ends: J.J. Watt, Houston; Robert Quinn, St. Louis
Tackles: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit
Outside linebackers: Robert Mathis, Indianapolis; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay
Inside linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Carolina; NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco
Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman, Seattle; Patrick Peterson, Arizona
Safeties: Earl Thomas, Seattle; Eric Berry, Kansas City
Punter: Johnny Hekker, St. Louis
Running backs: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota; Eddie Lacy, Green Bay
Fullback: Marcel Reece, Oakland
Tight end: Vernon Davis, San Francisco
Wide receivers: A.J. Green, Cincinnati; Demaryius Thomas, Denver, and Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
Tackles: Tyron Smith, Dallas; Joe Staley, San Francisco
Guards: Jahri Evans, New Orleans; Logan Mankins, New England, and Josh Sitton, Green Bay
Center: Alex Mack, Cleveland
Placekicker: Matt Prater, Denver
Kick returner: Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
Ends: Mario Williams, Buffalo; Greg Hardy, Carolina
Tackles: Dontari Poe, Kansas City; Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets, Jurrell Casey, Tennessee, and Justin Smith, San Francisco
Outside linebackers: Tamba Hali, Kansas City; Ahmad Brooks, San Francisco
Inside linebackers: Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati; Karlos Dansby, Arizona
Cornerbacks: Aqib Talib, New England; Joe Haden, Cleveland, and Alterraun Verner, Tennessee
Safeties: Eric Weddle, San Diego; Kam Chancellor, Seattle, Jairus Byrd, Buffalo, T.J. Ward, Cleveland, Devin McCourty, New England, and Antrel Rolle, New York Giants
Punter: Brandon Fields, Miami
* Peyton Manning was the only unanimous selection to the All-Pro team and therefore a second-team quarterback was not named