NEW YORK (The Sports Network) – New England’s Tom Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers received starting nods at quarterback for the Pro Bowl.
Brady will start for the AFC, while Rodgers will get the start for the NFC.
The rosters were announced Tuesday and the Patriots and San Francisco 49ers led all teams with eight selections apiece, followed by the Baltimore Ravens and Packers with seven players each.
The other quarterbacks for the AFC are San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, while New Orleans’ Drew Brees and the Giants’ Eli Manning are additional QBs for the NFC.
The contest will be Sunday, January 29, in Honolulu, one week prior to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
It is the seventh Pro Bowl selection for Brady, who enters the final week of the season with 4,897 yards passing and 36 touchdowns. He needs 103 yards to become the third NFL quarterback to reach 5,000 passing yards in a single season.
Rodgers, who sits atop the league rankings in passer rating (122.5), touchdown passes (45), yards per attempt (9.25) and interception percentage (1.2), earned his second Pro-Bowl selection.
“It does have special significance, because when I was voted 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. “But it’s great to be voted in as a starter, that means a lot to me and it’s a special honor.”
Brees set the record for most passing yards in a single season Monday, breaking a mark that stood since 1984. He has 5,087 passing yards on the season, three more than Miami’s Dan Marino.
Baltimore Ray Rice will start at running back for the AFC, while Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew and Houston’s Arian Foster were also chosen for the backfield. In the NFC, Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy will start. He’s joined in the backfield by Chicago’s Matt Forte and San Francisco’s Frank Gore.
The starting wide receivers are New England’s Wes Welker and Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace in the AFC, while the backups will be Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Miami’s Brandon Marshall. The NFC’s starting wideouts are Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, while Carolina’s Steve Smith and Green Bay’s Greg Jennings were named as backups.
New England’s Rob Gronkowski will start at tight end, while San Diego’s Antonio Gates serves as the backup for the AFC. Jimmy Graham of the Saints was chosen as a first-time Pro Bowl selection and will start for the NFC, while Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez serves as the backup.
Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who was selected as an AFC starter, was named to the 13th Pro Bowl of his 16-year career. Despite missing four games due to injury, Lewis has recorded a team-high 88 tackles this season.
The Ravens dominated the defensive side of the ball for the Pro Bowl. Haloti Ngata was named a starter along the defensive line, along with New England’s Vince Wilfork. Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Denver’s Von Miller will start at outside linebacker. The Ravens’ Ed Reed, who will also start, was named to his eighth Pro Bowl of his 10-year career. Reed will start at free safety.
“It is definitely an honor and blessing,” Reed said. “To come back after an injury last year and to be voted by my peers and fans is special. I am very appreciative of this honor, but right now, there are bigger goals in mind. With the Bengals coming up this week and a push to the playoffs, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but this is definitely something I am proud of and am thankful for.”
Other defensive starters for the AFC are Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney and New England’s Andre Carter at the end positions, the Jets’ Darrelle Revis and Denver’s Champ Bailey at cornerback and Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu at free safety.
Baltimore’s Vonta Leach will start at fullback for the AFC, while the tackles will be Cleveland’s Joe Thomas and Miami’s Jake Long. Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey will start at center, and the Patriots’ Logan Mankins and Brian Waters start at guard.
The special teamers for the AFC are Oakland’s Shane Lechler at punter and the Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski at kicker. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown was named to return kicks, while New England’s Matthew Slater will also be on the special teams squad.
For the NFC, Green Bay’s John Kuhn starts at fullback, while the offensive line starters include Philadelphia’s Jason Peters and San Francisco’s Joe Staley at tackle, along with guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks of the Saints, and Carolina center Ryan Kalil.
Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen was named to his fourth Pro Bowl. Another starter at the position will be Philadelphia’s Jason Babin.
Justin Smith (49ers) and Jay Ratliff (Cowboys) are the interior starting linemen, while DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys), Clay Matthews (Packers) start at outside linebacker. Patrick Willis (49ers) will start at another linebacking position.
Charles Woodson (Packers) and Carlos Rogers (49ers) are the starters at cornerback, while Earl Thomas (Seahawks) starts at free safety and Adrian Wilson (Cardinals) at strong safety.
The special teamers for the NFC are 49ers punter Andy Lee and teammate David Akers at placekicker. Patrick Peterson (Cardinals) will return kicks, and Corey Graham (Bears) was also chosen on special teams. Akers, who earned his sixth career Pro Bowl appearance, set the NFL record with 42 made field goals this season, surpassing the previous record of 40 made by Neil Rackers in 2005.
Some of the noted highlight players who were not voted in by players, coaches or fans include Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and Denver QB Tim Tebow, New England tight end Aaron Hernandez and Lions QB Matthew Stafford.
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