FOXBOROUGH -- It's hard to imagine the Patriots needed more motivation heading into Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. After all, with a win they would clinch the AFC East title and a playoff berth.
Yet an added jolt has been delivered anyway, in the form of Pro Bowl voting.
When the AFC team was announced Tuesday, defensive lineman Richard Seymour was the lone Patriot selected. For a team that has thrived on what it feels were slights in past seasons, the results were like a fastball over the plate, ready to be hit out of the ballpark.
"If other people who vote don't have the respect for this team, I think we're kind of used to that," quarterback Tom Brady, who was vying for his fourth Pro Bowl appearance, said yesterday. "After what we've accomplished, maybe people just choose not to vote [for us]. [But] I think this team cares about one bowl and it certainly isn't the Pro Bowl."
It was a theme echoed in several corners of the Patriots' locker room.
"The Pro Bowl is something that every player would like to have, but guys know what the goal is -- to win the Super Bowl," said outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, who leads the Patriots with 7 1/2 sacks. "A lot of teams have 11, 12, 15 Pro Bowlers, but there's only one champion. Would you like to have it on your résumé? Yeah. But I would rather have a Super Bowl ring. I've been fortunate enough to get two and I'm looking for three."
Beating the Jaguars (8-6) would officially give the Patriots (10-4) the chance to compete for a Super Bowl title, and although Seymour called the Pro Bowl honor (his fifth) humbling, he said the pursuit of a championship trumped all.
"It has been like that ever since I have been here and I think that something that this football team has done a good job of is trying to get to the postseason and win championships," he said. "I think that is the most important thing because nothing is better than going to Hawaii coming off a Super Bowl victory. I have experienced three of those [trips]. The respect that you get from the other guys over there [is great] because their ultimate goal is wanting a Super Bowl ring on their finger.
"So I think that is what we still can accomplish in this locker room. I think that's what guys vie for and that's what the most important thing is. That is really one of the reasons why we strap it on, you know, because it isn't about our postseason checks, it's about winning the championship."
At the same time, Seymour wishes he could take fellow lineman Ty Warren to the Pro Bowl with him. Warren was a strong candidate for a Pro Bowl selection, having been credited by Patriots coaches with 101 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks.
"He has definitely had a great year," Seymour said.
The same could be said for cornerback Asante Samuel, who is tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions.
"Of course, being a competitor, I'm disappointed," Samuel said. "Life goes on and I'm just focusing on Jacksonville. You just have to go out there and play, and let your play on the field speak for itself."
Offensive guard Logan Mankins was another player who could have made a case for Pro Bowl consideration. As for Brady, he made it clear how much he values appearing in the Pro Bowl.
"It matters very, very, very little," he said. "You're judged in this game on Super Bowls, not Pro Bowls. Guys on this team, what we're concerned about is winning the championship. I think you just go about your business. Everyone is happy that Richard [Seymour] is going, certainly, and the years that [players have] gone you're always proud of your teammates because those guys are very deserving.
"But at the same time, you don't work out every day in the summer to try to go to a Pro Bowl. You try to go to the Super Bowl."
Yet every team needs a little push along the way, and the Patriots may have just received a significant one.
"You can tell there is a lot more than one Pro Bowler in here," safety Artrell Hawkins said. "That goes without saying. Now we're just focused on beating Jacksonville and trying to shore up a playoff spot."
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.