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Tolbert, Hester would love to return

Posted Feb 10, 2012

The two backfield mates entered the NFL together in 2007 and share a close friendship. Though not heralded as a marquee decision, the status of free agents Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester is one of the important story lines for the next month.

SAN DIEGO – Every good rock band needs a bass guitar.

In this metaphor, starter Ryan Mathews plays a Gibson electric guitar, but fellow backs Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester carry the bass line, imposing their powerful frames on opponents and wreaking havoc on special teams.

Tolbert and Hester both are free agents. With much of the offseason focus on the status of the offensive line and Vincent Jackson, don’t forget about two-thirds of San Diego’s backfield. Many musicians and singers, after all, think bass is the most important sound element.

Mathews’ development became one of the best stories of the 2011 season for San Diego as the second-year back ranked seventh in the NFL with 1,546 yards from scrimmage.

After splitting the starting running back job with Mathews in 2010, Tolbert settled into his role as “Vulture,” a goal line menace swooping into the game to pinch touchdowns.

“They say I have a knack for it,” Tolbert said of scoring. “But I just try to get across the line. Always falling forward is what I’ve learned.”

Tolbert also became the third-down back and caught a career-best 54 passes for 433 yards in 2011.

Hester, a reliable team captain, became the lead back Oct. 9 against Denver after injuries to both Mathews and Tolbert.

The two entered the NFL together, Hester as a highly-visible third-round pick from LSU’s 2007 national championship team and Tolbert as an undrafted hard-nosed hitter from Coastal Carolina. Tolbert signed a one-year deal last year as a restricted free agent, but Hester’s rookie contract is ending.

“I would love to be here, but I’ve got to weigh my options and do what’s best for my family,” Tolbert said. “You’ve got to understand, Jacob and I came in together. We’ve been roommates the whole time here. I would love to see Jacob, myself and Ryan, and Curtis (Brinkley) and Frank (Summers) and Shawnbrey (McNeal) and all of us stay together for a few more years, but at the same time you know it’s a business and they might not want to go that same direction.”

Said Hester: “There’s definitely some uncertainty not knowing whether we’ll be here or somewhere else. Obviously we’ve had a good run here and we’d love to play here for all of our careers. But this is a business and you never know what’s going to happen. It’s a little bittersweet, but however the cards are dealt you have to go with it. We’ll see.”
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