The Patriots placed eight players – including quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Wes Welker, and tight end Rob Gronkowski – on the AFC’s Pro Bowl roster for the second year in a row, with a league-high seven picked to start the game.
Offensive tackles Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Andre Carter, and special teams standout Matthew Slater were also named to the Pro Bowl. Selections were announced on NFL Network, with only the 49ers joining the Patriots in having eight players honored. The Packers and Ravens each had seven.
For Brady, it’s his seventh time picked for the game. Waters has been selected for the sixth time, but the first five came when he played for the Chiefs. Welker, Wilfork, and Mankins will all be making their fourth appearance, while Gronkowski, Carter, and Slater are first-time selections. All but Slater were chosen as starters.
It’s Welker’s fourth consecutive selection, and the third straight season that Brady, Wilfork, and Mankins have been picked.
Carter, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve last week with a quadriceps injury, won’t be healthy enough to play in the Jan. 29 game, which once again will be held in Honolulu. The others are hoping they won’t be able to play in the Pro Bowl, either, but for a much different reason. Since it’s held the Sunday before the Super Bowl, anyone gearing up for the title game receives an excused absence from the Pro Bowl.
Brady (4,897 passing yards), Welker (116 receptions, 1,518 yards), and Gronkowski (1,219 receiving yards, 15 touchdowns) were slam-dunk selections. Mankins, Waters, and Wilfork are also considered the elite at their positions. Carter had a team-high 10 sacks before his injury, while Slater has emerged as a specials teams coverage star, with 17 tackles this season.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez and punter Zoltan Mesko were also strong candidates, and still could be named to the AFC team as alternates. But those two Patriots, like the other eight, are hoping to be preparing for a week in Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI when the Pro Bowl kicks off from Hawaii.