8 Patriots and 49ers lead Pro Bowl rosters
NEW YORK – Tom Brady is one of eight Patriots and Patrick Willis one of eight 49ers to make the Pro Bowl, the most on each roster.
Defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay (14-1), led by starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Baltimore (11-4), led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, have seven apiece for the Jan. 29 game in Honolulu, the NFL announced Tuesday.
Brady is one of seven starters from New England (12-3). The others are receiver Wes Welker, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, defensive end Andre Carter, and guards Brian Waters and Logan Mankins all are starters for the AFC from the Patriots. Special teamer Matthew Slater is the other New England representative.
Linebacker Willis, DE Justin Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers and tackle Joe Staley will start for the NFC from the 49ers (12-3), who had only Smith and Willis make the Pro Bowl last year.
Green Bay's Rodgers is the starting NFC quarterback, backed by record-setting Drew Brees of New Orleans (12-3).
"It does have special significance, because when I was voted in in 2009, I was the third guy and I was very thankful to be voted in, and got the opportunity to start because of some injuries and guys not going," Rodgers said. "It's great to be voted in as a starter, that means a lot to me and it's a special honor."
Four of the NFL's biggest headline makers this season did not get voted in by players, coaches and fans: Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, Steelers LB James Harrison, Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton, and Denver QB Tim Tebow.
Suh might have lost support after drawing a two-game suspension for stomping an opponent, and Harrison's one-game suspension for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy might have reduced his support.
Fifteen first-time Pro Bowlers made the NFC squad, including Rogers, Staley and safety Dashon Goldson of the 49ers. Thirteen AFC players were first-time selections, including Gronkowski, Carter and Slater of New England. Carter is on injured reserve (left quadriceps) and won't play.
"If you look around the NFC, you see a ton of amazing and talented players at tight end," said the Saints' Jimmy Graham, the starter at the position and a first-time Pro Bowler. "And to be thought of in that company by my peers, the head coaches and the fans who follow the NFL is something I take seriously."
Fourteen teams from each conference were represented, with St. Louis (2-13) and Washington (5-10) drawing blanks in the NFC, Buffalo (6-9) and Tennessee (8-7) shut out in the AFC.
Pittsburgh (11-4), New Orleans and Chicago (7-8) each had five representatives.
Three rookies were chosen: Denver linebacker Von Miller, Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green, and Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, selected as a kick return specialist. He has tied an NFL record with four punt runbacks for TDs this season.
"As I've said before, A.J. is the best first-round draft pick that I've ever been around," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "He has shown the other players in this league, and the fans, that he deserved this honor. I have not seen a receiver better than he is at getting to the ball."
All the kickers are from Bay Area teams.
NFC special teamers included two 49ers: record-setting placekicker David Akers, and punter Andy Lee; Peterson; and Corey Graham of Chicago.
For the AFC, the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski is the placekicker, Shane Lechler the punter. The kick return specialist is Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown, and the special-teams player is Slater.
NFC starters will be Rodgers, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, Packers FB John Kuhn, Graham, Panthers C Ryan Kalil, Saints guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, Eagles tackle Jason Peters and Staley, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and Lions WR Calvin Johnson on offense.
On defense, it will be Vikings DE Jared Allen and Eagles DE Jason Babin, Cowboys DT Jay Ratliff and Smith, Packers OLB Clay Matthews and Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware, ILB Willis, Packers CB Charles Woodson and Rogers, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson.
AFC starters will be Brady, Ravens RB Ray Rice and FB Vonta Leach, Gronkowski, Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey, Mankins and Waters at guard, Browns tackles Joe Thomas and Dolphins tackle Jake Long, Welker and Steelers WR Mike Wallace.
On defense, it will be Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil replacing Carter, Colts DE Dwight Freeney, Wilfork and Ravens DT Haloti Ngata, Miller and Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs, Lewis, Jets CB Darrelle Revis and Broncos CB Champ Bailey, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Ravens safety Ed Reed.
Players who make the Super Bowl will be replaced on the Pro Bowl rosters.