Tolbert delivers Major relief for Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Having a baby in the middle of preparation for a Monday night game against the New England Patriots might not be the best timing for some, but for Carolina Panthers running back Mike Tolbert, it was perfect.

"To me, the most important thing is family," said Tolbert, who missed Thursday's practice to be with his wife when she gave birth to their second child. "So to be able to come on a big week for us is a big thing as a team."

Tolbert was back at practice on Friday 24 hours after his wife delivered Major De'on Tolbert, seven pounds and seven ounces. He also was back to his usual joking self.

"I was hoping for a 10-pounder," said Tolbert, known as "Bowling Ball" because of his stocky 5-foot-9, 245-pound build. "But I don't think my wife could have pushed that one out."

He wasn't done there.

"I told Cap every time he sees my son he's got to salute, because he's got a lower rank than him," said Tolbert, referring to cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

In case you haven't figured it out, Tolbert is one of the more light-hearted members of the team. His one-liners will sneak up on you faster than his speed does on defenders trying to tackle him.

When head coach Ron Rivera gets serious on game days, as he typically does, Tolbert usually is the one that lightens the mood.

"Like this past Sunday in San Francisco," Tolbert said of Carolina's 10-9 victory against the reigning NFC Champions. "He was upset about something. I was, 'Hey, Coach, calm down. Remember, you said I could throw your flag if we've got to challenge something.'

"He started looking at me and laughing."

Rivera smiled when reminded of the remark.

"Yeah, I think he really wants to throw it," he said. "It is very serious, and it's always good to have a guy like him around that can kind of put your mind at ease."

There likely will be a Tolbert moment before Monday night's game, which has become quite big with the Panthers (6-3) on a five-game winning streak facing one of the league's marquee teams.

And nobody is off limits, including general manager Dave Gettleman, when it comes to his humor. Tolbert has mocked the way the Boston native talks and walks more than once already.

"It's more my personality, joking around, picking on guys, making fun, having a good time," Tolbert said. "We're a close-knit group, so I can pick on anybody from the GM on down to the practice squad. So it doesn't really effect anybody personally."

And neither does having a baby during preparation for the Patriots.