The NFL released the 2006 Pro Bowl selections today, and three members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make the trek to Hawaii for the annual NFC-AFC post-season all-star game. Cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Derrick Brooks are repeat selections, while punter Josh Bidwell will make his first Pro Bowl appearance on Feburary 12.
Bidwell secured his first Pro Bowl selection after leading the NFC with a 45.7 yards-per-punt average. Bidwell is the first punter in Buccaneers’ history to be selected to the Pro Bowl.
“This is definitely the top of my career so far, to this point,” Bidwell said. “I never really a couple years ago would have imagined this would happen. To see it come to fruition is a goal that I’ve had my sights on for a long time. I’m so excited.”
Bidwell spent his first five seasons in the NFL as the punter for the Green Bay Packers. This is his second season in a Buccaneers uniform. Fortunately for the Bucs, he saved his best performance of his career for his stint in Tampa Bay.
“This year, I believe that I’m the best punter in the league, and hopefully that will continue,” Bidwell said. “Everybody kind of has good years and not so good years, but my goal is to be the best, and from here on out the rest of my career I hope I can do that.”
Barber is making his third appearance in Hawaii and his second consecutive selection to the Pro Bowl after making NFL history this season. He is the first cornerback in NFL history to record 20 sacks and 20 interceptions. Barber is also tied for the team lead with five interceptions – four coming in back-to-back games against New Orleans and Carolina. His first selection to the Pro Bowl came in 2001 when he notched 10 interceptions in a single season.
“I made it last year and I had three sacks and three interceptions,” Barber said. “They are not gaudy numbers, but the consistency over the years, and obviously, the number of tackles, and the stats across the board, probably make it stand out for me more than anything. You talk about Pro Bowls, and I think reputation speaks a lot more than stats anyway. If you continue good play it will get you there year in and year out.”
This will also be the second consecutive season that Barber plays alongside his brother Tiki, who is a running back for the New York Giants. Tiki ran for more than 200 yards last week in a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brooks makes his ninth consecutive trip to Hawaii, which thrusts him into a stellar group of linebackers who have been selected to nine consecutive Pro Bowls. The only other linebackers to have more consecutive Pro Bowls are Mike Singletary, Junior Seau and Lawrence Taylor. Brooks currently is second on the team with 144 tackles, but has also registered two sacks and one interception.
“It’s very humbling, to be honest with you,” Brooks said. “I obviously thank God for everybody who voted for me, my peers, the fans and also the coaches. Every year, it just gets more humbling. At the same time, it’s one of those things where you believe in yourself and continue to set the standard with what you do and working hard.”
Five Buccaneers were chosen as alternate Pro Bowl selections. If, due to injury or decision not to play in the game, players could not play in the game then wide receiver Joey Galloway, fullback Mike Alstott, defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, defensive end Simeon Rice and running back Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams would be substitutes.
The biggest snub appears to have been Galloway, who has arguably been the most valuable player this year for the 9-5 Buccaneers. Galloway, who was passed over in favor of Carolina’s Steve Smith, Washington’s Santana Moss, St. Louis’ Torry Holt and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, has a team-leading 71 catches for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns. Other Tampa Bay players who deserved strong Pro Bowl consideration but were denied include middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, who leads the team in tackles and cornerback Brian Kelly, who has four interceptions in 2005.
“We have a lot of good players, and I’ll be specific and say B.K. (Brian Kelly), again, doesn’t get the recognition for being a Pro Bowl-type player,” Barber said. “He’s not an alternate either. That bites at me a little, but that’s the nature of this deal. The recognition is nice and there are a lot of deserving players, but me being one of them doesn’t mean necessarily that I’m the best, it just means that my peers and the coaches around the league thought I’ve done a good job. Again, I can’t put enough emphasis on the guys that don’t make it, because they deserve it as much as me.”
Brooks added to that sentiment.
“This is probably one of the toughest years for me in terms of making it, because I can name five or six guys who I know should have made it, had deserving years to be in the Pro Bowl,” Brooks said. “Again, all I can do is just thankfully continue playing at the level they’re playing at. This is probably the most alternates we’ve had, and all those guys had the type of year and deserve to play. Especially, for me personally, Shelton [Quarles]. Shelton has risen to the occasion every week for us. To see him not be chosen, that’s kind of hurtful in a way, to be honest with you. Hopefully, we can go out there and win a bigger championship that will erase this.”
Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds contributed to this story.
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