Carolina Panthers

Panthers’ Luke Kuechly still top Pro Bowl draw for inside LBs after 2 rounds

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly remains the leading vote-getter among inside linebackers after the second round of Pro Bowl fan balloting, which was announced Wednesday.

Kuechly, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, is tied with Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David for the league lead in tackles with 116.

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who has never been to a Pro Bowl, is currently fifth in the fan balloting, which makes up a third of the voting. Players and coaches comprise the remaining two-thirds of the vote.

Four tight ends will go to the Pro Bowl, which will be in Phoenix the week before the Super Bowl is there.

New England’s Rob Gronkowski leads the voting among tight ends, followed by Denver’s Julius Thomas, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and San Diego’s Antonio Gates.

Through 11 games, Olsen is second behind Gronkowski (812) in receiving yards among tight ends with 719. His 56 receptions are fourth most at the position.

“You look at what he’s done and the way he’s played, he deserves it. Greg has had the kind of year, and each year he’s been here he’s played better and better,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Hopefully people will recognize it and he’ll get the opportunity that he deserves to have and get a chance to be in the Pro Bowl.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, a two-time Pro Bowler, is not ranked among the top 10 at his position. Newton, who has 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, is behind the likes of Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer, who is 10th in the voting.

Outside linebacker Thomas Davis, the team’s second-leading tackler who is looking for his first Pro Bowl berth, is not in the top 10 at his position, either.

In addition to Kuechly, the other two Panthers’ players in the top 10 in the fan balloting are center Ryan Kalil (7th) and cornerback Antoine Cason (8th).

Kalil went to his fourth Pro Bowl last year when Rivera and his staff coached one of the teams. Cason, who is tied for the league lead with four forced fumbles, has never been selected.