The Green Bay Packers, with the NFL’s best record, had seven players selected for the Pro Bowl, their most since winning Super Bowl II in 1967.
The San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots, however, have an NFL-high eight players picked for the annual all-star game.
Representing the defending Super Bowl champions are wide receiver Greg Jennings, fullback John Kuhn, linebacker Clay Matthews, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, nose tackle B.J. Raji, center Scott Wells and cornerback Charles Woodson, the league announced on Tuesday. Rodgers, Woodson, Matthews and Kuhn were named starters for the NFC team.
Rodgers, who also was a Pro Bowler in 2009, leads the NFL in passer rating (122.5, which would set an NFL record), touchdowns (45) and yards per attempt (9.25), while ranking second in completion percentage (68.3) and No. 3 in passing yards (4,643). His 45 touchdown passes are a franchise record and rank fourth in NFL history, while he broke Lynn Dickey’s yardage record on Sunday night. He beat out Drew Brees and Eli Manning to be the NFC starter.
“It does have special significance,” Rodgers, in quotes distributed by the team, said of being selected as the starter for the first time, “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. But it’s great to be voted in as a starter, that means a lot to me and it’s a special honor.”
Kuhn is the first Packers fullback to be named to the Pro Bowl team since William Henderson in 2004. Kuhn has scored six touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving) for the second consecutive season. He has rushed for 73 yards on 28 carries (2.6-yard average) and caught 13 passes for 67 yards (5.2 average).
“It’s just really an honor,” Kuhn said, “because it means that the fans out there really appreciate you, it means your peers, your players, appreciate you, and it means that your coaches, the people that are directly involved in game plans, appreciate you. That’s very special to me. Some awards out there are voted on in all different kinds of ways, but the fact that I can say my peers, my coaches and the fans all really appreciate me, that means more than anything.”
Even though he’s got just six sacks compared to 13.5 last season, Matthews was selected for his third Pro Bowl, the first Packers player to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons since running back John Brockington in 1971 through 1973. Matthews, who entered last week tied for second in the NFL with 36.5 combined quarterback knockdowns and hurries (STATS LLC won’t have updated figures until Wednesday), has set career highs in interceptions (three), forced fumbles (three) and passes defensed (nine).
Woodson earned his eighth career Pro Bowl selection, including four straight as the all-star starter. He’s the first Packers cornerback since Herb Adderley (1963-67) to be selected to the Pro Bowl in four consecutive seasons. Woodson is tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions this season and ranks second on the team with 20 passes defensed. He’s added 83 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Jennings, who leads the team with 67 catches and is second with 949 yards and nine touchdowns, was selected to the NFC squad in back-to-back seasons. He was on pace for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season until a knee sprain held him out of the last two-and-a-half games and possibly Sunday’s regular-season finale against Detroit.
Raji was a first-round draft choice with Matthews in 2009. And, like Matthews, Raji drew the praise of his peers even though his numbers are down. He’s got three sacks this season – down from 6.5 last season. Still, he’s the first Packers defensive tackle to be selected to the Pro Bowl since Bob Brown in 1972.
“I was pretty excited,” Raji said. “It’s one of those things with the position that I play, a lot of times you kind of feel like your contributions go unnoticed, but this is just confirmation that somebody out there is noticing the work I’ve put in and some of the plays I make, and I’m appreciative for that.”
Wells, a seventh-round draft pick by the Packers in 2004, earned his long-overdue first Pro Bowl nod. He is the first Green Bay center to be named to the Pro Bowl since Mike Flanagan in 2003. Wells, the only Packers lineman to start every game at the same position this season, is the leader of an offensive line that has helped the Packers score a league-high 34.3 points per game.
“I take it as an honor as being a part of a special team,” Wells said. “I think some of it comes off of the success that we had last year, and then rolling into this year and the success we have continued to have this year definitely pays dividends. As a team is successful, the individual accolades come, so I know it is a direct correlation to what the team has been able to do.”
Kicker Mason Crosby was named first alternate. Other alternates include linebacker Desmond Bishop, returner Randall Cobb, tight end Jermichael Finley, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, guard Josh Sitton and cornerback Tramon Williams.
The game will be played in Honolulu one week before the Super Bowl, on Jan. 29.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.