Law, Seymour old pros
Veteran Patriots are bowled over
FOXBOROUGH -- Deep down, Bill Belichick probably got a little pleasure yesterday afternoon out of delivering the news to his 12-2 Patriots that only two of them, cornerback Ty Law and defensive lineman Richard Seymour, had been voted to the 2004 Pro Bowl. Belichick's job just got a little easier.
Just in case the pursuit of home-field advantage or the prospect of winning a second Super Bowl in three seasons doesn't do it for the Patriots, the league's fans, players, and coaches (each with a one-third vote) have worked together to provide them with additional motivation in the form of not enough respect. The more wins, the more players who get "pineapples" beside their names -- usually.
"You can look at the Pro Bowl teams every single year, and I could tell you where all of the players are going to come from -- the teams that are winning," Belichick said Wednesday. "I tell the same thing to the players that I'll tell you, `You want to be in the Pro Bowl? Win.' That will get you there quicker than anything else."
Usually. "I don't understand it," guard Damien Woody said of New England receiving its fewest Pro Bowl selections since the Patriots were excluded altogether from the game that followed the 2000 season, when they went 5-11. The Patriots had four representatives in 2001 and six last year, including alternates. "I just find the whole thing funny, how last year we had six and this year we have two. My thing is, what more can you do? Any time you have the best team in football and you had a good year [individually], that should put you over the top."
The Patriots, winners of 10 consecutive games, are tied with Kansas City for the best mark in the league. Kansas City had eight players voted to the Pro Bowl, as did 8-6 Baltimore. Four players from the Colts and Titans were picked for the AFC's 43-man roster. The Bills and Jets, both 6-8, will send two players apiece. The 8-6 Bengals and 9-5 Broncos have two representatives each. The 5-9 Steelers had three players selected.
Some seven Patriots were considered worthy of Pro Bowl selections. Safety Rodney Harrison, cornerback Tyrone Poole, linebacker Tedy Bruschi, special teams captain Larry Izzo, and Woody form the local fandom's snub list. Harrison, a Pro Bowler in 1998 and 2001, still could go, however. Should Miami's Brock Marion, Baltimore's Ed Reed, or Kansas City's Jerome Woods be unable to attend, Harrison would be tapped as the first alternate. Harrison said Wednesday that he didn't expect to be voted in despite his team-leading 120 tackles (according to Patriots statistics), 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions.
Poole has enjoyed a career year with a team-leading six interceptions -- not enough, though, to make him a household name. Woody was hurt by his being listed as a center on the ballot; he switched to guard in Week 3. Bruschi's 119 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions returned for touchdowns weren't enough to move out perennial Pro Bowlers Ray Lewis of the Ravens and Zach Thomas of the Dolphins.
Izzo's chances of receiving his third selection in four seasons improved Wednesday when Baltimore's Adalius Thomas, the AFC's special teamer, was placed on injured reserve.
Two selections "just shows that no matter what we do, people don't respect us," Harrison said.
In his third season, Seymour already has gained a reputation as one of the top linemen in the league. Playing mostly end in the 3-4, he's tied for the team lead with 7 1/2 sacks. "It's definitely an honor to be selected for the second time in three years," said Seymour, who expressed his disappointment that fellow cocaptain Harrison, as of now, isn't scheduled to join him on the trip. "To be in my second Pro Bowl and having already won a Super Bowl and having the opportunity to go to another Super Bowl, I would say my career has had a pretty good start."
If Law's career in New England is coming to an end, he's going out in style. He's going to the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year and fourth time in his career. He was co-MVP of the 1999 Pro Bowl.
Law and the Patriots likely will get together after the season to discuss restructuring his contract, which calls for him to earn $5.9 million next year and count close to $9.5 million toward the cap. Should the Patriots win the Super Bowl this year, Law will receive another $500,000 in salary as reward for a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl win in two seasons ($250,000 each for '01 and, possibly, '03). Law, second on the team with five interceptions despite playing most of the season with a severely sprained ankle, just saw his bargaining position get a lot stronger.
There are no salary escalators based on performance in Seymour's contract until 2005 and 2006.
"It's an honor to be chosen," Law said, "but it's kind of bittersweet because even though we have one of the best records in the league, we only had two guys get selected. It's sort of a shame and it just goes to show you how we still have so little respect across the league. I'm thrilled to a certain extent, but it's not as enjoyable as I thought it would be. I thought we would have at least five or six guys that have played well enough to be on that team.
"I'm very happy to be selected, but I'm a little disappointed that I wasn't joined by more of my teammates who I feel were more than deserving. A lot of 12-2 teams would send eight or nine guys over there." . . .
Deion Branch (finger), Ted Johnson (neck), and Woody (flu) all returned to practice yesterday after sitting Wednesday. All remain questionable for tomorrow night's game against the Jets. Chris Akins (calf) did not practice. . . . The Patriots worked out wide receiver B.J. Lovett yesterday. Lovett, 6 feet 4 inches and 208 pounds, signed with Cleveland this year as a rookie free agent out of Michigan State and also made a stop in San Diego.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.