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Black and Blue all over: Urlacher speaks

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher went on local radio Friday and suggested the Pro Bowl is more of a "popularity contest" than a collection of the game's best players. Urlacher, who was named a third alternate for the NFC team, went on to say he has had a "pretty solid year" and is "not too bothered" by his omission.

Here's the key quote, via the Chicago Sun-Times:

"I think I played pretty solid this year. I didn't have any sacks, but I didn't have any sacks in 2006 and I was first-team All-Pro. Go figure. Last year I had five [interceptions] and five sacks and didn't make the Pro Bowl. I'm not too bothered by it.''

There is some truth to Urlacher's sentiment about the Pro Bowl, although I think players vote more based on reputation than they do for their friends. In other words, they sometimes vote for those who have a reputation for playing well rather than those who actually had a Pro Bowl-caliber season.

In either event, Urlacher is fighting to stay relevant amid suggestions that his Pro Bowl days are over.

Continuing around the NFC North on a snowy Saturday morning in the upper Midwest:

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune takes a look at the Bears' 2008 draft class. The success of second-round tailback Matt Forte is mitigated by the lack of impact from first-round offensive lineman Chris Williams and third-round receiver Earl Bennett.

  • Green Bay general manger Ted Thompson says he is "very pleased" with his draft class, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Although receiver Jordy Nelson is the only rookie who has contributed regularly, Thompson said: "We think we've got some good players who are going to be good players for a long time. We know we've got some good people."

  • Thompson's 2007 first-round pick, defensive tackle Justin Harrell, has suffered another setback in his attempt to return from a year-long back injury. Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has details.

  • Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune further explains the disappointment of Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte, who returned to backup status this week after winning eight of 11 starts.

  • Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff turned down an opportunity to interview for Minnesota's top personnel job in 2006, recalls Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

  • Do the Detroit Lions really blame the NFL's on-field officials in part for their 0-14 record? Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press takes a look.

  • Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News hopes the Lions can raise the spirit of the city with a victory in at least one of their final two games.