<
>

Seven Colts lead AFC Pro Bowl selections

There will be only one brother act in the Pro Bowl this season:
the Barbers.

The Mannings? Only Peyton made it, hardly a surprise because
brother Eli has had a very up-and-down second season with the New
York Giants.

So Eli, one of the leaders in the fan vote, ended up as a third
alternate in the NFC when the players and coaches added their say.

Peyton Manning was one of an NFL-high seven Indianapolis Colts
who made the group of 42 players from each conference announced
Wednesday; the seven Pro Bowlers befit the Colts' 13-1 record. San
Diego, which handed Indianapolis its first loss last Sunday, had
six, including linebacker Shawne Merriman, one of two rookies to
make it.

Houston kick returner Jerome Mathis was the other first-year
man.

Chicago and Atlanta led the NFC with six selections each, while
the Giants and Seattle had five apiece in the selections for the
Feb. 12 game in Honolulu. The Bears' contingent was the largest
they have sent to Hawaii in 15 years, and New York defensive ends
Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora were the first pair from the same
team at that position since Miami's Jason Taylor and Trace
Armstrong in 2001.

Another noteworthy selection: Minnesota's Koren Robinson, chosen
as the NFC's kick returner. Robinson, the ninth overall pick in the
2001 draft by Seattle, has had a series of off-field problems that
included a guilty plea to drunk driving and a suspension last
season. He was cut by the Seahawks before the season.

"It's a funny feeling right now," Robinson said. "Looking
back on everything I've been through, being in an alcohol treatment
facility, I thought I burned all my bridges as far as all the
organizations in the NFL were concerned."

The selections generally reflect the standings.

Last year, for example, Philadelphia was 13-1 at the time of the
voting by fans, players and coaches, and had nine representatives,
the most from a single team since 1998. This year, the Eagles are
6-8 and had one player selected, middle linebacker Jeremiah
Trotter.

Four teams had no players chosen -- Cleveland and Tennessee in
the AFC, San Francisco and Green Bay in the NFC. Of those four, the
Browns have the best record: 5-9.

This will be the second straight year in Hawaii for the Barber
twins, Tiki, the Giants' running back and Ronde, the Tampa Bay
cornerback.

"It was special. It was nerve-racking, too many people. It was
fun," Ronde said of last season's trip. "It will be another fun
trip, I'm sure."

The starting lineups will be announced Jan. 7.

Players around the league consider selection a singular honor,
especially because most have bonuses in their contracts if they are
picked. Playing is another matter -- many drop out with injuries or
for other reasons, and alternates take their places.

Cincinnati offensive tackle Willie Anderson put it in
perspective.

"The Pro Bowl is a weeklong trip you enjoy. But by six months
later folks forgot who played. But the Super Bowl, to win the Super
Bowl, that's more of a lifetime experience," said Anderson, who
will be making his third Pro Bowl trip in a 10-year career, but is
going to the playoffs for the first time.

"To be honest with you, if I never make it again I won't be
sad, but I think this season was important for us to make the
playoffs and possibly go to the Super Bowl."

Peyton Manning, the NFL's MVP the last two seasons, led a
distinguished trio of AFC quarterbacks, joining two-time Super Bowl
MVP Tom Brady of New England and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer.

The NFC QBs are Jake Delhomme of Carolina, Matt Hasselbeck of
Seattle and Michael Vick of Atlanta.

Kansas City, as usual, has three offensive linemen on the AFC
team. Those tend to be hereditary positions to which players are
often selected automatically, and Chiefs guard Will Shields and
tackle Willie Roaf will be making their 11th Pro Bowl appearances.