WASHINGTON - Sean Taylor's selection to the Pro Bowl was supposed to be a crowning moment during a season in which he became a truly dominant NFL safety.

Instead, it's a tribute to a player who was tragically lost from the game at age 24.

The Washington Redskins safety was selected as an NFC representative to the 2008 Pro Bowl yesterday, 3 weeks after he was fatally wounded in a shooting at his home in Miami. Taylor was chosen as the conference's top free safety in balloting by coaches, players and fans.

"It is well-deserved," center Casey Rabach said. "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 believed to be the second person elected posthumously to an all-star game in a major American professional sports league. Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh was voted by fans to start in the 1986 NHL All-Star Game after he was killed in an automobile accident on Nov. 11, 1985.

Taylor led the NFC with five interceptions at the time of his death, even though he had missed the previous two games because of a knee injury.

But the numbers don't come close to vouching for Taylor's vast improvement this season. In his first 3 years in the NFL, he would mix big hits with big mistakes. He led the league in missed tackles last year, but his bone-jarring hits intimidated receivers so much that he was chosen as a first alternate to the Pro Bowl. He then got to play in the game after another player withdrew. *