Fullback may be a position of decreasing importance in today's NFL, but it's not so obscure that it explains what happened in the AFC Pro Bowl results.
Mike Tolbert has not played fullback for the Bills all season. But that didn't stop him from being named as a Pro Bowl alternate at the position — even ahead of Patrick DiMarco, who actually plays fullback for the Bills.
Tolbert has played both fullback and running back throughout his 10-year career, but has been strictly a running back since joining the Bills in March.
"Zero," he said, when asked Wednesday to estimate the amount of time he has spent at fullback this season. Tolbert guessed he was split 60-40 between fullback and running back last season with the Panthers.
Tolbert's nomination, which was based on votes from fans, players and coaches, appears to be based strictly on reputation.
"I guess that's what it is," Tolbert said with a smile. "Fans and my peers and coaches, they realize I can still play the game."
Tolbert was proud of the recognition, but knew it wouldn't play well across the locker room.
DiMarco, who has been invited to the Pro Bowl in the past, declined to talk about the topic Wednesday and was clearly upset with the situation. Tolbert said he spoke with DiMarco about it.
"It's not something that he's happy about," Tolbert said. "But I mean, I don't control it, he doesn't control it. Coach always says, 'control what you can control.' And we had nothing to do with it."
Patriots fullback James Develin was named the AFC's starter at the position over the Jaguars' Tommy Bohanon, who won the fan vote. Three AFC teams — the Dolphins, Bengals and Colts — no longer have a fullback on the roster, but it's not as if there's such a dearth at the position that Tolbert was needed as the third alternate.
"I was shocked," Tolbert said of learning the news. "I haven't really played much fullback all year. But it's a great honor, a great nod."
Tolbert would play in the game if he gets asked, but admitted that the voting can be "a joke sometimes."
"I think stuff like that, Pro Bowl voting, it comes from popularity from the fans and stuff like that," he said. "You know, it's the same thing with the Top 100. Last year, I think J.J. Watt was No. 30 or 35 or something like that and he played three games last year. So it's one of those things where you appreciate it but you know it's a joke sometimes. It's an opportunity, if I were to go, that my family would have a great time, I would have a good time because I've been before, so I would not pass up an opportunity like that. ... If they want me to go and we're not on the big Super Bowl playoff run, I'm there."
Would he really go, knowing he hasn't even played the position this season?
"Hell yeah," Tolbert said, "It's the Pro Bowl, man."