FOXBOROUGH -- It's tough to be too critical of the fact that just two Patriots were named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad yesterday, given the team's injury situation all season.
Tom Brady, who is enjoying his best statistical season, was named one of the conference's three quarterbacks, along with Peyton Manning of the Colts and Carson Palmer of the Bengals, and defensive tackle Richard Seymour, despite playing just 10 games because of a knee injury, was selected for the fourth straight year.
Manning was one of seven Colts named to the team, along with running back Edgerrin James, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, center Jeff Saturday, defensive end Dwight Freeney, linebacker
The San Diego Chargers put six players on the AFC squad, including rookie linebacker Shawne Merriman. In the NFC, the Bears and Falcons led the way with six selections apiece.
A case could have been made for Patriot Mike Vrabel, who switched to inside linebacker after Ted Johnson retired and during Tedy Bruschi's absence, and performed well. Guard Stephen Neal revved up his play in 2005, and what about Rosevelt Colvin, who has 6 1/2 sacks and is playing much like he did when he produced back-to-back, 10 1/2-sack seasons for the Bears in 2001 and '02?
Also left off the AFC squad was Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, who has made 17 of 22 field goals, and Josh Miller, who is one of the best cold-weather punters in the league, though it is tough to argue with Bills punter Brian Moorman (tied with Miller with a 45.5-yard average). Also being edged out for a berth was New England fullback Patrick Pass, who won the fan balloting but will watch San Diego's Lorenzo Neal in the game.
Larry Izzo, a three-time selection as the special teams player, was omitted in favor of San Diego's Hanik Milligan.
Those players are still eligible to be alternates, but only the head coach is told of his team's alternates. Brady and Seymour found out about their selections in the traditional way, announced by coach Bill Belichick after practice.
''After being selected four times in a row, I just count my blessings all the time," said Seymour. ''It's just awesome to be recognized by your peers and by the other coaches in the league for what you do on the football field. It's a great honor and I look forward to representing the AFC."
Seymour joked that some players told him the NFL should purchase a home for him in Hawaii.
''A lot of credit needs to go to the guys around me," Seymour said. ''Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren are both having great years. As a total unit, it's an honor. It's an awesome experience."
Brady lamented that more teammates weren't selected.
''I'm glad that I'm representing the New England Patriots, but I certainly wish more of my teammates were able to join me," he said. ''But I accept it and I'm grateful and I look forward to the experience."
Former Patriots cornerback Ty Law was named to the AFC squad as the Jets' lone representative.
Not surprisingly, Belichick downplayed Pro Bowls.
''Our goal is about winning and that's what we can have some degree of control over, is our performance," he said. ''Everything else that we don't have any control over, there's only so much you can do about it. It is what it is."
Asked whether he took pride as a coach when his players make the Pro Bowl, Belichick said, ''I take pride in our players' performance, individually and collectively. I certainly do. But I can't control what everybody else thinks or what they perceive it as. Again, in all honesty, I haven't seen all of the players play. There are a lot of teams in the AFC that I really haven't studied, haven't really watched them very carefully. I don't even know what kind of year some of those guys are having that are on the ballot."
Pro Bowl rosters, C9.