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NEW YORK (AP) - Pro Bowl voters honored the memory of Sean Taylor. They also used a lot of votes on Dallas Cowboys and none on the NFC South, which didn’t get a player into the league’s all-star game.
Taylor, who died Nov. 27 after being shot during a burglary at his home in Florida, was voted the starting free safety on the NFC team. He was having an outstanding season and was one of the leading vote-getters among fans at the time of his death.
“It is well-deserved,” Redskins center Casey Rabach said. “If he would have been able to finish the season, he would have been in there. It just shows the respect everybody around the league had for him and what a great player he was.”
Taylor is the only player known to have made an all-star team posthumously in any sport other than goaltender Pelle Lindbergh was voted to the NHL All-Star game in February 1986. He had been killed in an auto accident in November 1985 after playing eight games for the Philadelphia Flyers, for whom he had won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie the previous season.
Both conferences were dominated by players from the teams at the top of the standings, none more than Dallas, which had 11 voted to the team by fans, players and coaches for the game to be played in Honolulu on Feb. 10. Unbeaten New England had eight, including Tom Brady and Randy Moss, but also linebacker Mike Vrabel, who made it to the game for the first time in 11 NFL seasons.
Still, Jacksonville was ignored although the Jaguars are 10-4 and on the verge of clinching a playoff spot in the AFC. So were all four teams in the NFC South, plus Detroit and the New York Jets.
Dallas’ contingent included the obvious: quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Terrell Owens. And with the Cowboys at 12-2, the fans came out for more of their favorites on “America’s Team.”
One of the Cowboys, running back Marion Barber, is not a starter for Dallas, although he leads the team with 871 yards rushing. That’s 315 more than starter Julius Jones, but is just seventh in the NFC, although Barber does have 11 touchdowns.
Green Bay, tied with Dallas at the top of the NFC, had four players on the team, including Brett Favre, who will start at quarterback. It is the ninth Pro Bowl for the 38-year-old Favre, his first since 2003.
San Diego, like New England, had eight players chosen. Minnesota was second in the NFC with seven, including rookie Adrian Peterson, who leads the conference in rushing.
Redemption also was a theme.
Jared Allen of Kansas City, suspended for the first two games of the season after multiple drunken driving convictions, will be a starting defensive end for the AFC.
“I was always raised that a man has to have great character,” said Allen, whose suspension was reduced from four games to two by commissioner Roger Goodell after he promised to stop drinking.
“The measure of a man is what you do when no one is around and how you handle adversity. You can go two ways. You can bury yourself and just use it as a crutch and an excuse. Or it can motivate you and you can prove everybody wrong by working hard.”
Albert Haynesworth of Tennessee, suspended for five games by Goodell last season after stomping on the head of Dallas’ Andre Gurode during a game, made the AFC team at defensive tackle. He will play against Gurode, the starting center for the NFC.
“The season I wanted to have this year was one to rewrite the history books on me, so that people would remember me as a good football player, not for what happened last year, having the longest suspension,” said Haynesworth, whose contract is up after this season and is expected to be a prize free agent if he doesn’t re-sign with the Titans.
One of those left off the team was Fred Taylor of Jacksonville, who has had four straight 100-yard rushing games and has 1,091 yards rushing and has a 5.1-yard average per carry while splitting time with Maurice Jones-Drew.
Fred Taylor is the 18th leading rusher in NFL history, but has never been to the Pro Bowl. That makes him the only one of the top 43 rushers in history not to make it to the league’s all-star game.
He anticipated that last week.
“Whatever happens, happens,” he said. “They’ve got to tally up the votes, and however it comes out, I’ve got to live with it. I’ve always felt like I’m Pro Bowl-quality, so everything else doesn’t matter.”
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio refused to lobby for votes for his players and ended up with no Pro Bowlers on a team that right now is one of the NFL’s five best.
“Hometown people want to get their hometown guys in,” coach Del Rio said last week. “When you get a bunch in, you can say we’re the greatest, and if you don’t, you think you got robbed. It’s the same everywhere.”
The three backs chosen ahead of Fred Taylor were LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego, Willie Parker of Pittsburgh and Joseph Addai of Indianapolis. Parker and Tomlinson have gained more yards than Taylor, but Parker is averaging 4.1 and Tomlinson, last season’s league MVP, is averaging 4.7.
Addai, one of five Colts on the AFC squad, has 1,019 yards rushing, 72 yards fewer than Taylor and an average of 4.1 yards per carry, a full yard less than the 31-year-old Jacksonville star.
Three rookies made the NFC team: Peterson, who is third in the NFL with 1,278 yards rushing and first among regular backs with a 5.9 average; linebacker Patrick Willis of San Francisco; and Dallas placekicker Nick Folk.
The Pro Bowl selection also proves that you don’t have to be a high draft choice from a big school to make it.
There are three undrafted free agents from Kent State on the AFC team. One is tight end Antonio Gates of San Diego, on the AFC team for the fourth straight year. The others are linebacker James Harrison of Pittsburgh and return man Joshua Cribbs of Cleveland.
There are 18 first-timers on the AFC team, 11 in the NFC. Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden of Baltimore was voted to his 11th straight Pro Bowl in his 12th season.