HONOLULU — The NFL wanted Pro Bowl drama. The NFL got Pro Bowl drama.
Alex Smith, the final pick in last Wednesday’s Pro Bowl Draft, led Team Rice on the final touchdown drive on a rain-soaked field. Then Jerry Rice and Riverboat Ron Rivera went for two and clinched a 22-21 win over Team Sanders in the first unconferenced Pro Bowl.
This was the best Pro Bowl in a long, long time.
Here’s what else we learned from Sunday’s game (Watch highlight video):
1. Even if the banter was manufactured by the 2014 Pro Bowl Draft, players after the game said they enjoyed the process and the opportunity to play with guys they never had a chance to team with before. It was a theme all week.
2. Teammates hitting each other didn’t seem like a big deal. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson laid the wood on teammate Jamaal Charles early. Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward later flipped Josh Gordon to the ground. We never did get that teammate-on-quarterback sack, though.
3. Speaking of quarterback sacks, the defensive lines dominated. The two teams ended up with nine sacks. Early in the contest, we wondered if Sean Payton would call Team Rice’s coach (and division rival) Ron Rivera and ask him to sit Drew Brees. The Saints quarterback was sacked twice and battered often. The QB pressures were a big reason for all the turnovers.
4. J.J. Watt was a beast. Playing next to Ndamukong Suh and later Greg Hardy, Watt was unblockable. With Team Rice double-teaming Watt, Hardy picked up a sack. Don’t think management in Houston didn’t see that and ponder what Jadeveon Clowney would look like next to Watt.
5. The playful teammate trash talk was constant and likely will linger in texts and tweets the next couple days. Mike Tolbert’s SuperCam mock-celebration after his two-point conversion was emblematic. “I told Cam I was going to mess with him if I got in the end zone, so I had to,” Tolbert said laughing.
6. The lack of continuity on offense clearly hurt the product. Not only were there fewer teammate combinations due to the draft, the new format also lessened the practice time by one day. There were a multitude of miscommunications between quarterback and receiver.
7. Speaking of teammates, Drew Brees hit Jimmy Graham for an early touchdown pass. On the play, Brent Grimes (all 5-foot-10 of him) ended up on the 6-foot-7 tight end. That, friends, is a mismatch.
8. What was going through Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe’s mind as he rumbled toward the end zone after his second-quarter interception? “I was thinking of a touchdown celebration dance,” Poe said after the game. “I didn’t get there, but next time I will though.”
The NFL wanted a better Pro Bowl. And it got it.
Criticized in recent years for players not giving full effort and for the games getting too high-scoring and too different from the regular product we see each Sunday, this year’s Pro Bowl was a different story.
Whether it was the unconferenced format, which pitted regular-season teammates against each other for the first time, or the competitive draft from alumni captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, or maybe just the threat from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last year that the players needed to pick it up or the game could be discontinued, the 2014 Pro Bowl was a lot more entertaining.
In the end, Team Rice defeated Team Sanders 22-21 with a late touchdown from DeMarco Murray with just 41 seconds to play. A two-point conversion run Carolina’s Mike Tolbert gave Team Rice the lead. A 67-yard field goal attempt by Baltimore’s Justin Tucker fell short, giving Rice the win.
Eagles QB Nick Foles was named Offensive MVP and Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson took home the Defensive MVP honors.
The Dallas Cowboys originally had only two players – Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant – voted into the game. But in the last two weeks, three players were added as alternates. The Cowboys had a total five on the field tonight.
Here’s a quick look how each player fared in the game.
Dez Bryant – Playing in his first Pro Bowl, the receiver wasn’t a huge factor for Team Sanders. He had two catches for 12 yards but did have a chance to score in the third quarter but dropped a fourth-down pass right at the goal line.
Jason Witten – For most of the game, Witten was a non-factor but he did have two catches – his only two – in the final minute of the game as Team Sanders drove for the win. Although he did start, he gave way to Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron, who ultimately caught the game-winning score late in the fourth. Witten has now played in nine Pro Bowls in his 11-year career.
Tyron Smith – The first-time Pro Bowler started for Team Rice but played the entire game at right tackle after playing the season on the left side. Smith had a false start penalty early in the game but clearly had some issues blocking Houston’s J.J. Watt and a stiff pass-rush by Team Sanders, which had four sacks and four turnovers. Smith played most of the game without much substitution.
Jason Hatcher – Also a starter for Team Rice, Hatcher had a fourth-quarter sack on Eagles QB Nick Foles on third down. Hatcher also had an offside penalty but played fairly well, coming up with a huge QB pressure in the final seconds in what could be his final game with a Cowboys helmet.
DeMarco Murray – The third tailback for Team Rice, Murray wasn’t much of a factor until the final drive. Murray caught a dump-off pass from Alex Smith and scurried in for 20-yard touchdown to pull his team within one point. A two-point conversion by Tolbert on the next play gave Team Rice the win. Murray had four carries for 25 yards and four catches for 37 yards.
DeMarco Murray scores game winning TD in 2014 NFL Pro Bowl (WATCH)
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray scores for Team Rice with less than a minute to play, and alumni captain Jerry Rice makes the bold decision to go for the game winning 2-point conversion.
Team Jerry Rice
Team Deion Sanders
Team Jerry Rice | Team Deion Sanders
|Total First Downs||24||Total First Downs||14|
|By Rushing||7||By Rushing||4|
|By Passing||16||By Passing||10|
|By Penalty||By Penalty|
|Third Down Efficiency||6/16 – 37%||Third Down Efficiency||2/11 – 18%|
|Fourth Down Efficiency||2/4 – 50%||Fourth Down Efficiency||1/2 – 50%|
|Total Net Yards||384||Total Net Yards||285|
|Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks)||78||Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks)||56|
|Average Gain per Offensive Play||4.9||Average Gain per Offensive Play||5.1|
|Net Yards Rushing||114||Net Yards Rushing||62|
|Total Rushing Plays||20||Total Rushing Plays||17|
|Average Gain per Rushing Play||5.7||Average Gain per Rushing Play||3.6|
|Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards)||1–1||Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards)||1–3|
|Net Yards Passing||270||Net Yards Passing||223|
|Times Sacked (Number-Yards)||4 – 21||Times Sacked (Number-Yards)||5 – 41|
|Gross Yards Passing||291||Gross Yards Passing||264|
|Pass Comp-Att-Int||26 – 54 – 4||Pass Comp-Att-Int||20 – 34 – 2|
|Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks)||4.7||Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks)||5.7|
|Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks)||0 – 0 – 0||Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks)||0 – 0 – 0|
|Punts (Number-Average)||4 – 49.0||Punts (Number-Average)||5 – 49.2|
|Net Punting Average||47.0||Net Punting Average||38.0|
|FGs Blocked – PATs Blocked||0 – 0||FGs Blocked – PATs Blocked||0 – 0|
|Total Return Yardage (excludes Kickoffs)||56||Total Return Yardage (excludes Kickoffs)||109|
|Punt Returns (Number-Yards)||5 – 56||Punt Returns (Number-Yards)||3 – 8|
|Kickoff Returns (Number-Yards)||0 – 0||Kickoff Returns (Number-Yards)||0 – 0|
|Interception Returns (Number-Yards)||2 – 0||Interception Returns (Number-Yards)||4 – 101|
|Penalties (Number-Yards)||4 – 20||Penalties (Number-Yards)||2 – 10|
|Fumbles (Number-Lost)||2 – 1||Fumbles (Number-Lost)||3 – 1|
|Kickoff Returns||0||Kickoff Returns||0|
|Fumble Returns||0||Fumble Returns||0|
|Punt Returns||0||Punt Returns||0|
|Extra Points (Made-Attempted)||3 – 3||Extra Points (Made-Attempted)||3 – 3|
|Kicking (Made-Attempted)||2 – 2||Kicking (Made-Attempted)||3 – 3|
|Two Point Conversions (Made-Attempted)||1 – 1||Two Point Conversions (Made-Attempted)||0 – 0|
|Field Goals (Made-Attempted)||0 – 1||Field Goals (Made-Attempted)||0 – 2|
|Red Zone Efficiency||2/4 – 50%||Red Zone Efficiency||2/3 – 66%|
|Goal To Go Efficiency||2/3 – 66%||Goal To Go Efficiency||1/2 – 50%|
|Final Score||22||Final Score||21|
|Time of Possession||32:47||Time of Possession||27:13|
NFL Pro Bowl 2014
The NFL is starting over with the Pro Bowl.
The NFL originally announced radical changes to the format of the All-Star game back in May, eliminating the traditional AFC vs. NFC matchup in favor of a fantasy draft-like roster selection.
Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni captains, choosing two rosters with the help of two NFL.com fantasy users.
The NFL and NFLPA distributed a joint press release, explaining that the changes are designed to make the Pro Bowl “the ultimate fan-friendly celebration of the game.”
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” said NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth, who proposed the changes to the game. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
Under the new format, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players.
Players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, which will air (tonight) on Wednesday, Jan. 22, on NFL Network.
The 2014 Pro Bowl will be held on Sunday, Jan. 26, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
- Game within the Game: A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
- No Kickoffs: The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
- Rosters: The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
- Cover Two and Press Coverage: The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage. In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal-line situations.
- Stopping of the Game Clock: Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
- Game Timing: The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
- Play Clock: A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
- Sacks: The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
Check out the new NFL Pro Bowl page for much more detailed information about the NFL’s All-Star game!
COWBOYS HEADED TO HAWAII: DeMarco Murray becomes fifth Dallas Cowboy added to 2014 NFL Pro Bowl roster
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys initially had just two Pro Bowlers heading to Hawaii. Now they have five.
The latest addition is yet another first-timer as running back DeMarco Murray has been added, replacing San Francisco’s Frank Gore, who was injured in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Seahawks.
Murray makes his first Pro Bowl trip of his three-year career after enjoying his first 1,000-yard season. He rushed for 1,124 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns during the 2013 season. He also scored six of his nine touchdowns in the second half of the season.
Murray becomes the first Cowboys running back since Marion Barber in 2007 to make the Pro Bowl and just the second since Emmitt Smith’s eighth and final selection in 1999.
Murray joins a running back group of Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and LeSean McCoy, who were all initially selected. Adrian Peterson was also picked but won’t play because of injury and Marshawn Lynch is out because of the Super Bowl. Eddie Lacy and Alfred Morris have been added as replacements for those two but Murray now replaces Gore.
Originally, the Cowboys only had two Pro Bowl selections – Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith, a pair of first-round picks who are going for the first time. Last week, Jason Hatcher was added to the roster as a replaced for Baltimore’s injured nose tackle Haloti Ngata. And on Sunday, Jason Witten made it to the Pro Bowl after Denver’s Julius Thomas had to be replaced after the Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl.
The first ever “Unconferenced” Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, airing on NBC at 6 p.m. (CST). The first-ever NFL Pro Bowl draft will be nationally-televised on NFL Network Wednesday, Jan. 22 (7 p.m. CST) as alumni captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will pick the teams.
RELATED: TE Jason Witten fourth Dallas Cowboy added to 2014 NFL Pro Bowl
MOBILE, Ala. – Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will now be heading to his ninth career Pro Bowl.
Witten was added to the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday to replace Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who’s now Super Bowl bound.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith were initially the only two players selected to the Pro Bowl from the Dallas Cowboys, but Jason Hatcher (and now Witten) were additions this week. Witten’s ninth Pro Bowl appearance ties him with Randy White for the fourth-most in team history, behind only Bob Lilly, Larry Allen and Mel Renfro.
Jason Witten started all 16 games this year for the Cowboys and played in all 16 games for the 10th straight season. He finished with 73 catches for 851 yards and eight touchdowns, which marked his second-highest touchdown total of his career behind only the nine he scored in 2010.
He finished the 2013 season placing fifth in catches and yards and tied for fourth in touchdowns among all tight ends around the league.
Witten made the Pro Bowl every year from 2004-2010 and made the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season, in which he recorded a career-high 110 catches. All the other three Cowboys will be going to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
TOP NFL FREE AGENTS 2014: Pro Bowl bound Dallas Cowboys DT Jason Hatcher among NFL’s top 25 Free Agents
As the NFL’s 2013-2014 season comes to a close, let’s take a first glance at the 2014 NFL free-agent market.
It’s early in the offseason process. Franchise tags have yet to be discussed. There’s still time for clubs to lock up young stars to long-term contracts. Many of these names will be removed from consideration by the time the upcoming 2014 NFL free agents list is compiled in early March.
This list places the highest value on ascendant players with little or no reason to expect a dropoff in production over the next few years.
Here’s the Top-25 NFL Free Agents for 2014:
1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints tight end
2. Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers defensive end
3. Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins linebacker
4. Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills safety
5. T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns safety
6. Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans cornerback
7. Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs left tackle
8. Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end
9. Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders defensive end
10. Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins cornerback
11. Eugene Monroe, Baltimore Ravens left tackle
12. Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts cornerback
13. Linval Joseph, New York Giants defensive tackle
14. Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle
15. Jared Veldheer, Oakland Raiders left tackle
16. Aqib Talib, New England Patriots cornerback
17. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos cornerback
18. Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns center
19. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos wide receiver
20. Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks defensive end
21. B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers defensive tackle
22. Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers cornerback
23. Walter Thurmond, Seattle Seahawks cornerback
24. Donald Butler, San Diego Chargers linebacker
25. Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins defensive tackle
RELATED: Jason Hatcher added to NFL’s Pro Bowl 2013-2014 Roster
IRVING, Texas – And now the Dallas Cowboys have three Pro Bowlers. And once again, it’s a first-timer headed to Hawaii.
Jason Hatcher has been added to the Pro Bowl roster, replacing the spot of Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata, who will not play for injury reasons.
Hatcher led all NFL defensive tackles in sacks last year with a career-high 11 as just edged out Tennessee’s Jurrell Casey with 10.5.
Hatcher had the most sacks by a Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle since Randy White had 12.5 in 1984.
He was the first player other than DeMarcus Ware to have the team’s outright sack title since 2004 when Greg Ellis had nine. Hatcher’s 11 sacks was the first double-digit finish other than Ware since Tony Tolbert’s 12 in 1996.
Along with his team-high in sacks, Hatcher was second on the team with 33 quarterback pressures, just behind Ware’s 35. Hatcher and George Selvie tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss and his 48 tackles ranked eighth on the defense.
Hatcher, who is an unrestricted free agent, has openly said he will test the free-agent market come March, so it’s very likely this game in Hawaii could be his last in a Dallas Cowboys helmet. However, he also said he thought he wouldn’t return to the Cowboys in 2011, but signed a three-year deal to remain in Dallas.
IRVING, Texas – Two Dallas Cowboys players will be heading to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
Bryant recorded his second straight 1,000-yard receiving year this season, and it’s also his second straight season with 12 receiving touchdowns.
He’s hauled in 85 catches for 1,134 yards through 15 games and would need seven catches and 248 yards in the finale to tie his numbers from last season. But Bryant’s been more efficient and rarely seemed out of sync or out place with Tony Romo’s passes.
His 12 receiving touchdowns this season tie him with Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas for most in the NFL among wide receivers. Tight end Jimmy Graham leads all players with 15 receiving touchdowns.
Bryant’s recorded three games this season with at least 140 receiving yards and four games with at least 100 receiving yards. He’s also got a touchdown in each of his last four games.
Smith began as a right tackle before switching over to the left side last season, and his play dramatically increased toward the middle portion of the 2013 season, turning quickly into the elite player the Dallas Cowboys envisioned when they used their first-round pick on him in 2011.
This is the first time since DeMarcus Ware’s rookie season he hasn’t been named to the Pro Bowl. Jason Witten, who’s made eight Pro Bowls, including every year from 2004-2010 and another last season, also didn’t make it this year.
This marks the first time since 2010 the Dallas Cowboys have sent a receiver to the Pro Bowl, when Miles Austin went. It also marks the first time since 2010 the Cowboys took an offensive lineman to the Pro Bowl, when they sent Andre Gurode. It’s the first time since 2008, when Flozell Adams made the Pro Bowl, that a Cowboys offensive tackle was selected.
Unlike previous years, this year’s Pro Bowl offers something much different. There’s no more AFC lined up against the NFC. The all-stars will be drafted without conferences, but it will be back in Hawaii on Jan. 26, 2014, at Aloha Stadium.
The Pro Bowl players were determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counted a third toward determining the Pro Bowl selections announced today. Two additional “need” players will be chosen by each head coach and must be long snappers.
The “unconferenced” Pro Bowl player draft will be held Jan. 22 in Hawaii. Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will be team captains. Once again, players competing in the Super Bowl won’t be involved and more Cowboys could be asked to join the event as alternates in the future.
The Chiefs and 49ers sent a league-best eight players each to the Pro Bowl. Dallas and Philadelphia, which sent LeSean McCoy and Jason Peters, were the only two NFC East teams to send two players to the Pro Bowl. In all, 27 teams had at least one player selected and 22 had multiple players selected.
ETERNAL CONFIDENENCE: From Pro Bowl, Jason Witten displays optimism for the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys
Last year, it was Jason Witten who told reporters before the start of training camp that it “can’t be the same’ ol story” in 2012.
In reality, it was the sequel to 2011, about as similar as Hangover and Hangover 2. And now the Cowboys must figure out how to cure this hangover as well this year and not go down another 8-8 road where they miss the playoffs on the final week of the season.
At the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, a game that seemed to have better quality of play this year although it was still a scoring-fest, Witten wasn’t a big factor in the NFC’s 62-35 win. He had two catches for 12 yards as one of two Cowboys in the game. Anthony Spencer, playing most as a linebacker in a 4-3 scheme and wasn’t allowed to blitz, had a pair of tackles. Actually, Witten’s backup in the game, Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph, won MVP honors with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
But after the game, Witten was asked about the Cowboys’ chances of turning things around this year. And like always, the eternal optimist sounded confident – not only that things can get better next year, but the right people are in place.
In one 30-second answer on the field, Witten referenced the three people who have been taken the most criticism in the last year and last few seasons as well.
“Well it’s any time you don’t make the playoffs, it’s challenging,” Witten said. “I think we have a great head coach in Jason Garrett, and obviously great ownership – the Jones family – you trust they’re going to get you back to the top. It’s a commitment. It’s a tough league. But we have the right people – great leader in Tony (Romo). Hopefully we’ll bounce back and be better in 2013.”
At least Witten shares the same sentiments as most fans and critics of this team. The simple reference “bounce back” after an 8-8 season suggests 2012 wasn’t just a year that had some good and some bad. It’s a year where the Cowboys simply failed to get to their destination – once again.
He calls Romo a “great leader” but it’s Witten, and that attitude, is something these Cowboys need to adopt and follow.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to cancel future Pro Bowls if the players didn’t pick up the effort. He got his wish — for the most part.
The NFC won 62-35 and the game didn’t have any blatant episodes of guys loafing like the 2012 version. Part of that can be attributed to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who spoke to the entire group of participants (see article below) and called the last two years “unacceptable.”
“Peyton said some things and guys took it personal,” Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said during a sideline interview.
New York Giants star receiver Victor Cruz agreed.
“It was a little more high intensity than in years’ past,” he said. “It really did feel like a real game out there. People were hitting. It wasn’t touch football; guys were laying some licks. It had the energy of a real game. My body feels like it just went through a real game.”
Peterson’s teammate, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, was named Pro Bowl MVP after catching five balls for 122 yards during a second-quarter stretch when the NFC pulled away.
There were a few questionable moments. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil pulled up when he had a blindside shot to sack Saints quarterback Drew Brees at one point. But there were also hustle moments. Saints punter Thomas Morstead chased down Chiefs safety Eric Berry from behind and was carried into the end zone during an interception return after a botched field-goal attempt. There were even a few solid hits.
Goodell got what he wanted. Defenders actually tackled. No one was injured. There was a reverse on a kick return and a trick onside kick. Watt even got bloody early in the game.
“It definitely was better, especially compared to last few years,” said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who played in a record-tying 12th Pro Bowl. “That’s all they (NFL decision-makers) really want to see. It felt more like a real game. No one let people run past them.”
The overall feeling was that Sunday was a marked improvement from recent Pro Bowls.
Kareem Copeland | NFL.com Around the League Writer
Left photo: Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (97) pose with hula girls U’ilani LaBoy (right) and Aureana Tseu (left) at NFC media day. Right: Dallas Cowboys mascot Rowdy poses with Polynesian dancers at the 2013 Pro Bowl tailgate party.
AFC free safety Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills (31) runs with the ball after recovering a fumble by Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Byrd was tackled by Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
Left photo: Tight end Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys (82) watches during the NFC practice. Right: Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer (93) arrives at NFC practice. Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Whitney Isleib of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders performs at the 2013 Pro Bowl tailgate party at Richardson Field in Honolulu, Hawaii
Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer was named today to the Pro Bowl roster, replacing Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, who will not participate because of an injury. It marks the first Pro Bowl appearance for Spencer, whose presence will give the team three Pro Bowl honorees this season.
Spencer’s selection also will up the financial ante as he heads toward free agency following a season when he led the team in tackles (95) and set a career high in sacks (11). The Cowboys must decide if they will put the franchise tag on Spencer for a second consecutive season, sign him to a long-term extension or let him go in free agency.
Spencer is joined on the NFC roster by tight end Jason Witten and outsider linebacker DeMarcus Ware, although Ware will not play in the Jan. 27 contest in Hawaii because of post-season surgery.
Receiver Dez Bryant might get to the Pro Bowl yet, but he’ll have to have one of the four players named Wednesday to pull out to get the chance to go to Hawaii. Bryant said earlier Wednesday he would be "happy, who wouldn’t be" with a Pro Bowl nod.
Instead, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, and Victor Cruz were the choices on the initial list released Wednesday night. Players whose teams make the Super Bowl do not play in the Pro Bowl, which is the week before the Super Bowl.
Linebacker DeMarcus Ware and tight end Jason Witten were the two Cowboys named to the Pro Bowl. Ware made his seventh all-star team and Witten his eighth.
Bryant was left off despite ranking third among NFC wideouts with 88 catches and fourth in yards with 1,311. His 12 touchdowns ranks second among NFC wideouts. Balloting for players and coaches took place last week, though, before Bryant had nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints.
Witten and Ware were the only Cowboys who ranked in the top five in fan balloting. Witten was third and Ware second at their respective positions.
Witten has set the NFL record for most catches in a single season for a tight end with 103. Witten was left off the Pro Bowl roster last season, passed over by Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham.
“It is always an honor to get voted, especially when a portion of the vote comes from your peers around the league," Witten said in a statement released by the Cowboys. "I have a lot of respect for this league and the players that make up this league. I know how many great players there are around the NFL, and to be selected is very humbling.”
Ware has only 11.5 sacks this season, tying him for third in the NFC. He might not play in the game, because of injuries he has played through this season.
“What an honor and privilege it is to be voted to the Pro Bowl by the fans, coaches and players around the league," Ware said in a statement released by the Cowboys. "I know how difficult it is to make it to the game, and I appreciate the support from everyone. I look forward to not only representing the NFC, but also the entire Dallas Cowboys organization.”
Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer and kicker Dan Bailey were the other Cowboys deserving of the honor.
NFL 2012 Pro Bowl Roster – By position
LOOKING FORWARD: The future of the NFL Pro Bowl could incorporate the NCAA Senior Bowl (Special Feature)
So what would a Pro Bowl-less NFL calendar look like? According to NFL.com’s Albert Breer, one possibility would be replacing the game with a college all-star game.
Breer writes that the AFC and NFC’s all-star team could be recognized at the NFL Honors award show on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, with the college players hitting the field after.
"That game would likely be an existing college event, most likely the Senior Bowl, which would be moved to be part of the NFL calendar, with the thought that it could kick off draft season and highlight prospects on a bigger stage, though the league would certainly be careful about NCAA rules entanglements," Breer writes.
The concept would be to mix today’s stars with future stars. Breer’s well-researched piece has comments from NFL executive vice president of business ventures Eric Grubman, who sounds like he doesn’t see a traditional Pro Bowl in the future.
The NFL will announce the Pro Bowl teams tonight. The Cowboys won’t have a lot of players, especially judging by fans’ balloting, but they will have a handful.
Receiver Dez Bryant deserves his first; tight end Jason Witten likely will make his eighth; linebacker DeMarcus Ware hasn’t had his best year but could make his seventh on reputation; and kicker Dan Bailey probably won’t make it though he has a case.
Only Witten and Ware ranked in the top five in fan balloting. Witten was third and Ware second at their respective positions.
Witten should be one of two tight ends, along with Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez. He has set the NFL record for most catches in a single season for a tight end with 103. New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, who kept Witten out last year, leads the league in dropped passes.
Ware has only 11.5 sacks this season, tying him for third in the NFC. He might not play in the game, even if selected, because of injuries he has played through this season. Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer has played better than Ware, and deserves it more, and could end up going as an alternate.
Bryant, who is in his third season, is the most deserving of the Cowboys. He should be one of the four receivers selected, with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and one other, probably Atlanta’s Roddy White. Bryant ranks third among NFC wideouts with 88 catches and fourth in yards with 1,311. His 12 touchdowns ranks second among NFC wideouts. Balloting for players and coaches took place last week, though, before Bryant had nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints.
Bailey has missed only two field goals, though he ranks only sixth in the NFC in scoring with 128 points. His .933 field-goal percentage is tops among NFC kickers who have played all season. (Washington’s Kai Forbath is a perfect 17-for-17, but he has played only 10 games.)
The Pro Bowl teams are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches, with each group’s vote counting a third. The 43-man rosters for the AFC and the NFC will be announced at 6 p.m. on The NFL Network.
Aloha, Honolulu! The NFL is back in Hawaii for the 2013 Pro Bowl. The annual contest of the AFC and NFC’s best will take place Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 at Aloha Stadium.
Who do you think should be headed to Hawaii at season’s end?
Make your voice heard by casting your vote for your favorite NFL players with the official Pro Bowl voting widget.
Editors Note: None of the Dallas Cowboys Defensive Ends or Special Teamers are listed in the 2013 Pro Bowl ballot. However, 25 players are eligible.
OCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Former NFL star Junior Seau was found shot to death at his home Wednesday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43.
Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau’s girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful.
A gun was found near him, McCoy said. Police said no suicide note was found and they didn’t immediately know who the gun was registered to.
"We believe it was a suicide," said Oceanside police Lt. Leonard Mata. "There is no indication of foul play."
Seau’s mother appeared before reporters, weeping uncontrollably.
"I don’t understand … I’m shocked," Luisa Seau cried out.
Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said.
"He’s joking to me, he called me a `homegirl,’" she said.
Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware was the lone Cowboy named to the 2011 Associated Press All-Pro Team.
Ware led the Cowboys in sacks and finished second in the league with 19.5, a half-sack short of becoming the first player in league history with two career 20-sack seasons.
Ware is one of two Cowboys (nose tackle Jay Ratliff) voted to the NFC Pro Bowl squad.
The full first-team All-Pro roster:
QB: Aaron Rodgers, GB
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX; LeSean McCoy, PHI
FB: Vonta Leach, BAL
TE: Rob Gronkowski, NE
OT: Jason Peters, PHI; Joe Thomas, CLE
G: Carl Nicks, NO; Jahri Evans, NO
C: Maurkice Pouncey, PIT
K: David Akers, SF
KR: Patrick Peterson, ARI
DE: Jared Allen, MIN; Jason Pierre-Paul, NYG
DT: Haloti Ngata, BAL; Justin Smith, SF
OLB: Terrell Suggs, BAL; DeMarcus Ware, DAL
ILB: Patrick Willis, SF; NaVorro Bowman, SF; Derrick Johnson, KC
CB: Charles Woodson, GB; Darrelle Revis, NYJ
S: Troy Polamalu, PIT; Eric Weddle, SD
P: Andy Lee, SF
Only two Dallas Cowboys, linebacker DeMarcus Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff were named to the Pro Bowl when the NFC and AFC all-star teams were announced on Tuesday.
It’s the fewest number of Cowboys going to the Pro Bowl since 2002 when defensive tackle La’Roi Glover was their lone representative.
Ware, who is second in the league in sacks with 18, was voted in as a starter. It is his sixth straight trip to the Pro Bowl.
Ratliff was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fourth straight year. He will go in as a reserve after recording two sacks, six tackles for loss, 12 quarterback pressures and four pass deflections in 2011.
“It’s a great honor to be selected to play in the Pro Bowl,” Ware said. “It shows that all the work through the offseason and season pays off. It’s special because you are selected by the fans, your peers and coaches around the league. I am excited to represent the Dallas Cowboys and the entire NFL in the game. Since my rookie season, I always strived on working hard, being consistent and playing at a high level, and it really means something on a personal level to be rewarded.”
That tight end Jason Witten didn’t make the team was notable because it ended a streak of seven straight trips to the Pro Bowl for him. He could be added as an alternate as well as quarterback Tony Romo, linebacker Sean Lee and rookie tackle Tyron Smith.
Near the end of Wednesday’s media availability at the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch practice facility, it was announced over the loudspeaker in the locker room that players were about to attend a Pro Bowl voting session. Shortly before that, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant strolled past reporters, sporting a pretty comical piece of clothing considering where the team was headed.
Bryant had on a Nike t-shirt that said: "LAZY BUT TALENTED."
Not sure if Bryant planned to wear the shirt on purpose, mocking those who contest that the young playmaker is talented but lacks the proper work ethic, but either way, it was comical enough to get a laugh from a few reporters.
Bryant has improved in almost every major receiving stat category during his second NFL season. In 13 games, he has nine touchdowns and 796 receiving yards. Last season, Bryant played in 12 games before a right ankle injury prematurely ended his rookie campaign.
Just in case you were wondering, Pro Bowl voting is based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that will represent the AFC and the NFC.
Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis
Dez Bryant (88) congratulates Tony Romo (9) after Romo scored.
With today (Monday) being the last day for fans to vote for the Pro Bowl, it has our website wondering who might make it from the Cowboys – a franchise that landed six last year on just a six-win team.
Even if the Cowboys fail to win another game and finish the year with eight wins, I don’t think you’ll see them match Pro Bowlers with victories for the second straight year.
Still, I think the Cowboys can justify getting at least five players on this year’s Pro Bowl roster. If I’m getting to pick, these are my five that make it:
OLB DeMarcus Ware – Even though he’s hit a lull of sorts in the sack department, Ware still ranks third in the NFL with 16 sacks, which is the second-highest output of his career and the second-most in team history. If he can get past a nagging stinger injury, Ware has a legitimate shot to reach his own career-high with 20 sacks. Don’t forget Ware had four sacks against the Eagles in the first game. When it comes to outside linebackers, the only other NFC player with double-digit sacks is San Francisco rookie Aldon Smith (10.5).
QB Tony Romo – I think he’s definitely having a Pro Bowl season, but it will be interesting to see if the fans, players and coaches feel the same. Romo has been a guy on the “Overrated” lists so not everyone is on board with his play. But it’s hard to argue what he’s been able to do this year. He’s got 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions and the highest quarterback rating (102.6) of his career. I think Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both make it and Romo should be third. Then again, someone from the NFC is going to be in the Super Bowl, and there’s a good chance it’ll be one of those two.
DT Jay Ratliff – There was a lot of skeptics about Ratliff heading into this year, especially when he received the six-year contract extension. But Ratliff has earned his money in more ways than one. Not only has returned to the 2009 form when he was a playmaker behind the line of scrimmage, but he’s turning into a locker-room and on-field leader.
TE Jason Witten – This one isn’t a slam dunk like it’s been in the past. In fact, there is a chance Witten’s seven-year streak of making the Pro Bowl comes to an end. He’s actually third in the NFC in both catches and touchdowns among tight ends, trailing New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez. While Witten is probably the most complete tight end among those two, and probably against any tight end in the league, numbers make a difference and Witten’s numbers – 68 catches, 849 yards and five touchdowns – are a bit down from the last two years. Still, I think he makes it.
ST – Danny McCray – Someone has to make it a special teams player and why not McCray? Go ask opposing special teams coaches and they’ll tell you who the focus is when they try to block the Cowboys’ coverage units. McCray is double-teamed on just about every snap and he’s still able to lead the team with 18 special teams tackles. Last year, McCray snuck up on teams as a rookie free agent and posted 28. His numbers are down this year, but it’s because of the attention he gets. Who knows, maybe that attention will result in a Pro Bowl spot? Can’t say I know a lot of the other special-teams aces around the NFC, but again, why couldn’t it be McCray.
I thought about Sean Lee, who has been a steady force in the middle of this defense. But his injury slowed him down. And there are a lot of middle linebackers worthy of Pro Bowl honors in the NFC.
Kicker Dan Bailey might have had the best chance had he not had those two misses – although one was blocked – to win games or force overtimes in early December. That’s the heart of Pro Bowl voting. It’s easy to go with the guy you know and David Akers will probably make it for that reason.
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