NFL

NFL AM: Pro Bowl Selections Announced

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If the Carolina Panthers have their way, they won’t be participating in the Pro Bowl, instead playing in the Super Bowl the following Sunday. If that ends up being the case, the NFL will have plenty of spots to fill.

The still unbeaten Panthers put 10 players on the roster for the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl, leading the way for the entire league. That group was led by Cam Newton, who received his third Pro Bowl nod. Of the 10 Carolina players selected, half of them are first-time Pro Bowlers, including linebacker Thomas Davis, who received his first nod in his 10th NFL season, making the veteran defender especially grateful for his selection.

“It’s truly an honor to be selected to the Pro Bowl. All the hard work and dedication I’ve put into the game has paid off,” he said. “To have 10 guys selected says a lot about our team. It says a lot about our fans and how highly they thought of us this season, and I think it says a lot about the way our season has gone. I’m excited and thankful to be part of the 10.”

Also among those 10 were linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive tackle Kawann Short, cornerback Josh Norman, tight end Greg Olsen, running back Jonathan Stewart, fullback Mike Tolbert, center Ryan Kalil and guard Trai Turner.

As usual, the teams that lead the way in the standings also led the way in the selections. Behind Carolina’s 10 players, New England, Arizona and Seattle each had seven players picked to participate, including each of their quarterbacks. For Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, it was his 11th Pro Bowl selection, most of any player picked to participate this season.

On the flip side of that, 25 of the 86 players selected are first-time Pro Bowlers. Among them are Davis, Norman and Stewart, breakout running back Devonta Freeman of the Falcons, Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley, Houston Texans star wideout DeAndre Hopkins, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Chiefs rookie corner Marcus Peters, Patriots Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler and Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, who will not be able to participate after suffering a season ending knee injury last week.

As always injuries, Super Bowl-bound selections, and other excuses raised by players not to participate, will mangle what initially looks to be an outstanding roster for this year’s Pro Bowl. By the time the game rolls around there will likely be dozens of replacements added, bringing the total number of Pro Bowlers from the 2015 NFL season well over 100. That’s why it’s mostly irrelevant to look at Pro Bowl snubs this early in the process, because most of those players will wind up on the roster anyway.

Nevertheless the game, which will be played back in Honolulu, Hawaii this year after last year’s game was played at the Super Bowl site in Glendale, Arizona, will go on Sunday, January 31, 2016, giving us all an opportunity to complain about the poor quality of the contest. But the Pro Bowl may be the one NFL game that isn’t about the fans. And for these 86 players and counting, just getting to put “Pro Bowler” in front of their name, to denote that they have been among the best in the NFL, makes the whole process worthwhile.

BREES HAS TORN PLANTAR FASCIA, PLANS TO PLAY THROUGH IT

The Year of the Injured Quarterback rolls on and New Orleans Saints signal caller Drew Brees is its latest victim.

NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported on Tuesday that and MRI after the Saints’ loss to the Lions on Monday night revealed a torn plantar fascia in Brees’ right foot. The injury occurred in the second quarter of Monday’s game, after Brees was flushed out of the pocket and stepped awkwardly trying to avoid the oncoming pass rush.

Brees continued to play on the injured foot and led the Saints on the comeback trail, nearly getting the game tied after New Orleans trailed by 25 at one point in the contest. All three of his touchdown passes came after he suffered the injury and he finished the game with 341 yards passing, bringing him over 4,000 passing yards for the 10th straight season. He also eclipsed 60,000 yards passing for his career, just the fourth player in NFL history to achieve such a feat.

Reports out of New Orleans on Tuesday were that Brees plans to try to play through the injury, citing his outstanding play after he hurt his foot on Monday. However, it’s one thing to play through pain with the adrenaline still pumping and quite another to come back the next week, after a week of painful practice, and do it again. So it remains to be seen how plausible his plan to play is now that the adrenaline has worn off.

The torn plantar fascia is the same injury that has knocked Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning out of action for the last month after he tried to play through it and endured the worst game of his career as a result. With the Saints out of the playoff chase and just two games remaining in the 2015 season, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Brees to push through.

However, one wild card in New Orleans is the uncertain future of the Saints coaching staff. Head Coach Sean Payton, who sits firmly on the hot seat, is probably not thrilled with the idea of handing the keys to his offense over to quarterback Matt Flynn for the final two games of the season. But it would be a shame if Payton pushes Brees to play through an injury, in a last-ditch effort to save his own job, which might not even be salvageable at this point.

The best move for New Orleans, and for Drew Brees, would be to sit the veteran quarterback down for the rest of the season, let the foot heal properly and get him on track for next season, the final year of his Saints contract.

NFL SET TO ENFORCE FOREIGN OBJECT RULES

There really is no place for a baseball bat on a football field, and after the incident involving the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants on Sunday, the NFL sent a warning shot across the bow on Tuesday about heeding league rules as it relates to foreign objects.

Troy Vincent, the NFL Executive VP of Football Operations sent a memo to all teams on Tuesday reminding them that league rules prohibit such items that aren’t related to the game from coming out of the locker room and onto the sidelines or the field. As Vincent wrote:

“As part of our responsibility to protect the integrity of the game, please be reminded that no foreign objects unrelated to the uniform or playing equipment are permitted on the playing field and sidelines on game day (which includes the pre-game period, during the game, and postgame on the field).”

The warning is more fallout from the battle between Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman last Sunday at Metlife Stadium. Word came out on Monday that Beckham felt threatened by Panthers players who were reportedly carrying at bat, motioning in his direction and taunting him. Video shows the bat being carried by practice squad player Marcus Ball during pre-game warmups and later by Norman during a pre-game huddle.

Panthers players insisted they took the bat on the field for motivational purposes, not intimidation, citing the team’s mottos of “bringing the wood” and hitting a “home run” as well as a tribute to defensive back Bene Benwikere, who is out for the season with a fractured leg.

But in his memo, Vincent notes that while the league is empathetic to the team’s motivational tactics, it’s still not a good reason to wield a baseball bat on a football field.

“While we realize that teams and individual players may have items they use for motivation or to symbolize a theme that the team has used this season, we ask that you instruct your club personnel and players to leave those items in the locker room. For the purposes of this policy, “foreign objects” broadly encompasses any item that is neither intrinsic to the game nor necessary to conduct pregame drills and treat and prepare players for the game.”

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he has squashed the tradition of bringing the bat onto the field and that the Panthers will be leaving their motivational items in the locker room from now on.

“I’m going to end up hearing it. So to avoid the situation and set of circumstances, let’s just eliminate it. That’s what we’re going to do,” Rivera said. “It’s the No Fun League for a reason.”


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys