Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said he was ''proud'' of his five teammates that made the Pro Bowl, but didn't dwell too much on his surprising omission from the NFL's all-star game, which ended a string of seven consecutive selections.
The three outside linebackers selected to the NFC team are all pass-rush specialists in 3-4 defense: the 49ers' Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks), the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware (11.5) and the Packers' Clay Matthews (12). Briggs leads the Bears with 118 tackles, but has only 1.5 sacks.
"It's one of those things,'' said Briggs, who leads the Bears in tackles and has two interception returns for touchdowns in his 10th NFL season. ''There weren't any traditional outside linebackers in the Pro Bowl. That's just the way it goes. It's a vote.''
Deserving players get overlooked for the Pro Bowl on a regular basis. But a veteran player with seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances getting snubbed is unusual -- especially when he has two interception returns for touchdowns on a defense that has been on highlight shows all season. Usually it's the other way around -- a veteran player with multiple Pro Bowl berths takes a spot that should have gone to a younger player. Packers' center Jeff Saturday, who didn't make his first Pro Bowl until he was 30, was named to his sixth Pro Bowl team on Tuesday -- and he's not even starting. He was benched last week.
But centers don't get sacks. Linebackers do. So Lance Briggs' streak of Pro Bowl selections ends at seven. For now, anyway. So many players opt out of the game that it wouldn't be a surprise if Briggs eventually makes it.
Regardless, Briggs was happy for his teammates that made it: defensive tackle Henry Melton, cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, defensive end Julius Peppers and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
"I'm proud of them,'' Briggs said. ''Love to see Tim, all the hard work that Tim put in, he would've been the first to tell you, 'I'm going to play at a Pro Bowl level this year.' And he did it.
''Peanut, obviously, really revolutionizing the game the way he plays it. I know there's a lot of high school and Pee Wee coaches that are changing the way that they coach defense because of him. Henry Melton has been a force in the middle. We haven't seen a force like that since Tommie Harris when he was going to the Pro Bowl.
''Julius Peppers, he's probably the most dominant defensive lineman in the game. Brandon Marshall, we haven't had a receiver like him ever, since I've been here. It's a real treat to be able to play next to those guys."