Three Patriots special teamers selected for AP’s All-Pro teams

Jake Bailey and Gunner Olszewski were named to the first-team while Matthew Slater was named to the second team.

Gunner Olszewski celebrates after returning a punt for a touchdown during the first half of Sunday's game.
Gunner Olszewski was named to an All-Pro team for the first time in his career. –ASHLEY LANDIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Three members of the Patriots’ special teams unit are receiving one of the league’s top honors.

Punter Jake Bailey, returner Gunner Olszewski, and gunner Matthew Slater were all named to the Associated Press’ NFL All-Pro teams on Friday. Bailey and Olszewski received first-team honors while Slater received second-team honors. It’s the first time Bailey and Olszewski have been named All-Pros while it marks the seventh time Slater has been named an All-Pro squad in his career. Bailey and Slater were also named to the Pro Bowl team in December.

Bailey and Olszewski sit atop the league in a couple of statistical categories. Bailey leads the league in net punting average, with his 45.6 yards being the second-highest net punting average in league history. Olszewski 17.3 yards per punt return is the second-best in the NFL since 1970.

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Dynamic defensive star Aaron Donald and unstoppable tight end Travis Kelce were unanimous choices for the All-Pro Team.

Donald and Kelce swept the votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. It is the sixth All-Pro selection for Donald, who has helped the Los Angeles Rams to the top-ranked defense in the NFL, and the third for Kansas City’s record-setting Kelce.

“I think the best display of greatness is making people around you better,” Rams coach Sean McVay says of Donald. “And that’s exactly what he does, by the way he influences them every single week.”

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes lauded Kelce for the way he approaches his job.

“He works his tail off every single day and he’s practicing every single day and he’s making sure he’s prepared for these moments,” Mahomes says. “For a guy to have that much talent, work that hard and be able to learn really every single day like that, that’s what makes him so special on the field.”

Joining Donald and Kelce are 15 players returning to the squad, and 14 newcomers. Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner also makes his sixth squad.

“The marvelous durability that he’s demonstrated for middle linebacker after all these years is just off the charts,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says.

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Aaron Rodgers, who guided Green Bay (13-3) to the top seed in the NFC, makes his third team, as does Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Selected for the first time in the offensive skill positions are 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry of Tennessee, Buffalo wideout Stefon Diggs, who led the NFL in catches and yards receiving, and Rodgers’ favorite target, Davante Adams.

“For me, honestly, I think it’s just been finding different small things that I can get better at, obviously,” Adams says. “I feel like I’m a pretty complete receiver. … It’s just fine-tuning the things I do well and just figuring out a way to do them even better.”

Diggs was traded by Minnesota to Buffalo in the offseason and then made a huge impact as the Bills won their first AFC East in 25 years.

“For me, it was just in whatever situation I was going to be put in or chosen in,” says Diggs, “I was just going to embrace. The first thing i always try to do is get the respect of my teammates and my coaches. and that’s by working your (butt) off, keep grinding and putting that work in and letting the chips fall where they lay.”

The Packers and Colts both have four All-Pros. Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari makes his second appearance, and center Corey Linsley his first. Indianapolis has interior lineman DeForest Buckner and linebacker Darius Leonard on the defense, left guard Quenton Nelson on offense, and George Odum as the special teamer. Nelson is a three-time All-Pro, Leonard a double selection, while Buckner and Odum make it for the first time.

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Rounding out the offense are Cleveland right tackle Jack Conklin (second selection), and Washington right guard Brandon Scherff (first).

Also on defense are edge rushers T.J. Watt, the NFL’s sacks leader for Pittsburgh who is on his second All-Pro Team, and newcomer Myles Garrett of Cleveland; San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner (first selection); cornerbacks Xavien Howard (first) of Miami, the league’s interception leader, and Jalen Ramsey (second) of the Rams; and safeties Tyrann Mathieu (third) of Kansas City, Minkah Fitzpatrick of Pittsburgh and Budda Baker of Arizona, both for the second time. There was a tie between Fitzpatrick and Baker for the second safety spot.

The long snapper position is new to the All-Pro Team in 2020, and Baltimore’s Morgan Cox is the choice. Chicago kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson makes it for the fourth time. Miami kicker Jason Sanders was the other special teamer named to the All-Pro roster.

Repeaters from 2019 are Donald, Wagner, Nelson, Watt, Fitzpatrick, Mathieu and Patterson.

In all, 18 players represent the AFC, which is considered the stronger conference this season, and 11 for the NFC. Exactly half of the 32 clubs have a 2020 All-Pro.

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