Redskins' Taylor receives all-star honors
The Dallas Cowboys were another big winner in the voting, and will send 11 players to Honolulu.
NEW YORK - The Pro Bowl voters honored the memory of the Washington Redskins' Sean Taylor.
They also used a lot of votes on the Dallas Cowboys but were less kind to the NFC South, which failed get a player into the NFL's all-star game.
Taylor, who died Nov. 27 after being shot during a burglary at his home in Florida, was voted the starting free safety on the NFC team. He was having an outstanding season and was one of the leading vote-getters among fans at the time of his death.
"It is well-deserved," Redskins center Casey Rabach said yesterday. "If he would have been able to finish the season, he would have been in there. It just shows the respect everybody around the league had for him and what a great player he was."
Taylor is the only player known to have made an all-star team posthumously in any sport other than hockey.
Flyers goaltender Pelle Lindbergh was voted to the NHL All-Star Game in February 1986. He was killed in an auto accident in November 1985 after playing eight games that season for the Flyers, for whom he won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie the previous season.
Both NFL conferences were dominated by players from the teams at the top of the standings, none more than Dallas, which had 11 voted to the Pro Bowl by fans, players and coaches. The game will be played on Feb. 10, in Honolulu.
Unbeaten New England had eight players selected, including quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss, but also linebacker Mike Vrabel, who made it for the first time in 11 NFL seasons.
Still, Jacksonville was ignored, although the Jaguars are 10-4 and on the verge of clinching a playoff spot in the AFC. So were all four teams in the NFC South, plus Detroit and the New York Jets.
Dallas' contingent included the obvious: quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Terrell Owens. And with the Cowboys at 12-2, the fans came out for more of their favorites on "America's Team."
One of the Cowboys, running back Marion Barber, is not a starter, although he leads the team with 871 yards rushing. That's 315 more than starter Julius Jones has but ranks just seventh in the NFC, although Barber has 11 touchdowns.
Green Bay, tied with Dallas at the top of the NFC, has four players on the team, including Brett Favre, who will start at quarterback. It will be the ninth Pro Bowl for Favre, 38, but his first since 2003.
San Diego, like New England, had eight players chosen. Minnesota was second in the NFC with seven, including rookie Adrian Peterson, who leads the conference in rushing.
Redemption also was a theme.
Jared Allen of Kansas City, suspended for the first two games of the season after multiple drunken-driving convictions, will be a starting defensive end for the AFC.
"I was always raised that a man has to have great character," said Allen, whose suspension was reduced from four games to two by commissioner Roger Goodell after he promised to stop drinking.
"The measure of a man is what you do when no one is around and how you handle adversity," Allen said. "You can go two ways. You can bury yourself and just use it as a crutch and an excuse. Or it can motivate you and you can prove everybody wrong by working hard."
Albert Haynesworth of Tennessee, suspended for five games by Goodell last season after stomping on the head of Dallas' Andre Gurode during a game, made the AFC team at defensive tackle. He will play against Gurode, the starting center for the NFC.
"The season I wanted to have this year was one to rewrite the history books on me, so that people would remember me as a good football player, not for what happened last year, having the longest suspension," said Haynesworth, whose contract is up after this season and who is expected to be a prize free agent if he does not re-sign with the Titans.
One of those left off the team was Fred Taylor of Jacksonville, who has had four straight 100-yard rushing games and has 1,091 yards rushing and a 5.1-yard average per carry while splitting time with Maurice Jones-Drew.
Taylor is the 18th-leading rusher in NFL history but has never been to the Pro Bowl. That makes him the only one of the top 43 rushers in history not to make it.
He anticipated that last week.
"Whatever happens, happens," he said. "They've got to tally up the votes, and however it comes out, I've got to live with it. I've always felt like I'm Pro Bowl-quality, so everything else doesn't matter."
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio refused to lobby for votes for his players and ended up with no Pro Bowlers on a team now one of the NFL's five best.
"Hometown people want to get their hometown guys in," Del Rio said last week. "When you get a bunch in, you can say we're the greatest, and if you don't, you think you got robbed. It's the same everywhere."
The three backs chosen ahead of Taylor were LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego, Willie Parker of Pittsburgh, and Joseph Addai of Indianapolis. Tomlinson and Parker have gained more yards than Taylor, but Tomlinson, last season's league MVP, is averaging 4.7 yards a carry and Parker 4.1.
Addai, one of five Colts on the AFC squad, has 1,019 yards rushing, 72 fewer than Taylor, and an average of 4.1 per carry, a full yard less than the 31-year-old Jacksonville star.
Three rookies made the NFC team: Peterson, who is third in the NFL with 1,278 yards rushing and first among regular backs with a 5.9-yard average; linebacker Patrick Willis of San Francisco; and Dallas placekicker Nick Folk.
The voting also proved that you don't have to be a high draft choice from a big school to make the Pro Bowl.
Three undrafted free agents from Kent State are on the AFC team. One is tight end Antonio Gates of San Diego, on the team for the fourth straight year. The others are linebacker James Harrison of Pittsburgh and return man Joshua Cribbs of Cleveland.
There are 18 first-timers on the AFC team and 11 for the NFC. Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden of Baltimore was voted to his 11th consecutive Pro Bowl in his 12th season.