Our horsey’s’re better’n yers: Colts lead the way with seven Pro Bowlers
There will be only one brother act in the Pro Bowl this season: the Barbers.The Mannings? Only Peyton made it, hardly a surprise because brother Eli has had a very up-and-down second season with the New York Giants.So Eli, one of the leaders in the fan vote, ended up as a third alternate in the NFC when the players and coaches added their say.Peyton Manning was one of an NFL-high seven Indianapolis Colts who made the group of 42 players from each conference announced Wednesday; the seven Pro Bowlers befit the Colts’ 13-1 record. San Diego, which handed Indianapolis its first loss last Sunday, had six, including linebacker Shawne Merriman, one of two rookies to make it.Houston kick returner Jerome Mathis was the other first-year man.Chicago and Atlanta led the NFC with six selections each, while the Giants and Seattle had five apiece in the selections for the Feb. 12 game in Honolulu. The Bears’ contingent was the largest they have sent to Hawaii in 15 years, and New York defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora were the first pair from the same team at that position since Miami’s Jason Taylor and Trace Armstrong in 2001.Another noteworthy selection: Minnesota’s Koren Robinson, chosen as the NFC’s kick returner. Robinson, the ninth overall pick in the 2001 draft by Seattle, has had a series of off-field problems that included a guilty plea to drunk driving and a suspension last season. He was cut by the Seahawks before the season.”It’s a funny feeling right now,” Robinson said. “Looking back on everything I’ve been through, being in an alcohol treatment facility, I thought I burned all my bridges as far as all the organizations in the NFL were concerned.”The Colts selections include Manning, running back Edgerrin James, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, center Jeff Saturday, defensive end Dwight Freeney, linebacker Cato June and safety Bob Sanders.An eighth, offensive tackle Tarik Glenn, was originally told he made the team. Then the NFL said there was a computer error and he was fourth in the voting behind Anderson, Roaf and Baltimore’s Jonathan Ogden.Saturday, a first-time Pro Bowler, indicated he might take his linemates to Honolulu with him, which would mean almost all the Colts’ offensive starters would attend.”They’ll be well taken care of, you can count on that,” Saturday said.”It says we’re coming along, playing together, playing well,” said Sanders, another first-time selection. “It’s an exciting moment for us, for this family, for the whole organization.”The selections generally reflect the standings.Last year, for example, Philadelphia was 13-1 at the time of the voting by fans, players and coaches, and had nine representatives, the most from a single team since 1998. This year, the Eagles are 6-8 and had one player selected, middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.Four teams had no players chosen – Cleveland and Tennessee in the AFC, San Francisco and Green Bay in the NFC. Of those four, the Browns have the best record: 5-9.This will be the second straight year in Hawaii for the Barber twins, Tiki, the Giants’ running back and Ronde, the Tampa Bay cornerback.”It was special. It was nerve-racking, too many people. It was fun,” The Colts’ seven players include Manning, running back Edgerrin James, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, center Jeff Saturday, defensive end Dwight Freeney, linebacker Cato June and safety Bob Sanders.Ronde said of last season’s trip. “It will be another fun trip, I’m sure.”The starting lineups will be announced Jan. 7.Players around the league consider selection a singular honor, especially because most have bonuses in their contracts if they are picked. Playing is another matter – many drop out with injuries or for other reasons, and alternates take their places.Cincinnati offensive tackle Willie Anderson put it in perspective.”The Pro Bowl is a weeklong trip you enjoy. But by six months later folks forgot who played. But the Super Bowl, to win the Super Bowl, that’s more of a lifetime experience,” said Anderson, who will be making his third Pro Bowl trip in a 10-year career, but is going to the playoffs for the first time.”To be honest with you, if I never make it again I won’t be sad, but I think this season was important for us to make the playoffs and possibly go to the Super Bowl.”Peyton Manning, the NFL’s MVP the last two seasons, led a distinguished trio of AFC quarterbacks, joining two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady of New England and Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer.The NFC QBs are Jake Delhomme of Carolina, Matt Hasselbeck of Seattle and Michael Vick of Atlanta.Kansas City, as usual, has three offensive linemen on the AFC team. Those tend to be hereditary positions to which players are often selected automatically, and Chiefs guard Will Shields and tackle Willie Roaf will be making their 11th Pro Bowl appearances.
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