Chargers, Bears lead Pro Bowl rosters
The Raiders might be 2-12, but Warren Sapp is having a great season. He's just one of many players who was slighted in Pro Bowl voting.
To read more of John Clayton's analysis, click here.
The Chargers placed nine players on the AFC squad Tuesday and the Bears had seven on the NFC team, which also includes a quarterback -- Dallas' Tony Romo -- who wasn't a starter when the season began.
San Diego's contingent includes record-setting running back LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers, who sat on the bench for his first two seasons behind Drew Brees. The former Chargers quarterback signed as a free agent with New Orleans in the offseason and will start for the NFC.
Also among the players representing the Chargers is linebacker Shawne Merriman, last year's defensive rookie of the year, who made it despite missing four games for flunking a steroid test.
"I'm very proud of our team and players," said general manager A.J. Smith of the Chargers, who like the Bears are 12-2. "We have a special group of players. These individuals are being recognized, but this is also a positive reflection on their teammates and the overall strength and depth of the entire roster."
Chicago's representatives demonstrate how the Bears won: with defense and special teams.
Three of the seven Bears, led by linebacker Brian Urlacher, are on defense and three are on special teams -- kicker Robbie Gould, specialist Brendon Ayanbadejo and rookie return man Devin Hester, who has shattered records with six returns for touchdowns on three punts, two kickoffs and a missed field goal.
Center Olin Kreutz, a perennial at his position, is the only Bears Pro Bowler on offense.
The NFC team also includes the Barber twins -- running back Tiki of the New York Giants and Ronde of Tampa Bay. The first twins to make it together, they now become the second set of brothers to make the Pro Bowl for three straight seasons -- Shannon and Sterling Sharpe from 1993-95 are the others.
"With this being my final season in the NFL and the final time my brother Ronde and I will be teammates, the honor carries even more significance than in previous years," said Tiki, who described himself as "emotional" and "ecstatic."
In a year of outstanding rookies, Hester is the only one to make it, although Tennessee quarterback Vince Young is an alternate.
And Romo is almost a rookie. Until this season, he hadn't thrown a pass in three seasons with Dallas, mostly as a third-stringer.
But he is 6-2 as a starter since taking over from Drew Bledsoe at halftime of a loss to the Giants, leading the team to a playoff berth and control of the NFC East. When his potential selection to the Pro Bowl came up after his fourth start, coach Bill Parcells called it "ludicrous."
Like Kreutz, Urlacher and the Barbers, many of the Pro Bowlers are perennials although Ray Lewis of the Ravens didn't make it -- beaten out at inside linebacker on the AFC roster by Al Wilson of Denver and Zach Thomas of Miami.
"I really didn't think he would make it, not that he didn't deserve it," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "But it's a tough perception to overcome -- that your No. 2 receiver is better than 28 other receivers in the league."
Harrison also made it, although he is a backup to the two Johnsons who will start at wide receiver -- Chad of Cincinnati and Andre of Houston.
"From this day on, I guess I'll always be remembered as a Pro Bowler," Schobel said. "That's something nobody can take away from me."
Wilson said he got a phone call from Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill on Tuesday afternoon.
"I had to go in the closet because I didn't want to scare my son," Wilson said. "I was pretty ecstatic."
The position with the most repeaters is traditionally the offensive line.
Guard Will Shields of Kansas City will go for the 12th time, tying a mark held by former Viking Randall McDaniel, also a guard. Another guard, Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca, will represent the AFC for the sixth straight time.
The Rams' Marc Bulger joins Brees and Romo as the NFC's quarterbacks.
The game will be played in Honolulu on Feb. 10.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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