NEW YORK – They’ll only be in Honolulu if they don’t make the Super Bowl, but seven New England Patriots — including quarterback Tom Brady — already have that consolation prize in waiting with Wednesday’s announcement that they’ve been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Picked as starters were tight end Rob Gronkowski, left guard Logan Mankins, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo. Aside from Brady, wide receiver Wes Welker and special teamer Matthew Slater also have been invited to Hawaii.
With seven Pro Bowlers, the Patriots trail just the San Francisco 49ers (nine) and Houston Texans (eight).
This is Brady’s eighth Pro Bowl and his fourth in a row. Welker is heading to his fifth straight Pro Bowl. Wilfork and Mankins are going to their fifth Pro Bowls, including four straight. Gronkowski, Mayo and Slater have each earned their second Pro Bowl nods.
Meanwhile, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson also want to cap their sensational comebacks with Super Bowl appearances. For now, they can be proud of Pro Bowl spots.
So can Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, one of the two rookies chosen for the Jan. 27 NFL all-star game.
Manning missed all of the 2011 season with neck and back problems that required several operations. He then signed with Denver as a free agent and has led the Broncos on a 10-game winning streak to take the AFC West.
Four other Broncos made the AFC roster: defensive end Elvis Dumervil, linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Champ Bailey and tackle Ryan Clady. Bailey’s 12th appearance is a record for defensive backs.
“My goal has always been to go out and help the team win and play at a high level,” Manning said. “Anything that comes along with that, like being honored as a Pro Bowl selection, is very humbling.”
Minnesota’s Peterson tore his left knee late last year, underwent major surgery, then was back for the season opener. He’s gone from uncertain to unstoppable, running away with the rushing title with a career-high 1,898 yards and lifting the Vikings toward an NFC wild card.
“Coming into the season after going through the rehab process, I just told myself that I wanted to lead my team to a championship and make sure that I contribute and do my part,” Peterson said. “I’ve been doing it.”
Griffin is one of the three rookie quarterbacks who had superb debut seasons, along with Andrew Luck of Indianapolis and Russell Wilson of Seattle. Luck and Wilson weren’t voted to the Pro Bowl by players, coaches and fans, although their teams are in the playoffs; Griffin can get to the postseason if Washington beats Dallas on Sunday.
Kansas City, despite its 2-13 record, had five Pro Bowlers, including running back Jamaal Charles, who like Peterson is coming back from a torn ACL.
One other rookie, Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh, was chosen. Walsh has nine field goals of at least 50 yards, an NFL mark.
The AFC kicker is at the other end of the spectrum: Cleveland’s Phil Dawson earned his first selection in his 14th NFL season.
Another record setter will be heading to Honolulu: Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice’s single-season yards receiving record.
Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez set the record for Pro Bowls at his position by being chosen for the 13th time.
The league’s top two sackmasters, defensive ends Aldon Smith of San Francisco and J.J. Watt of Houston, were first-time selections.
Other newcomers were AFC players tackle Duane Brown and guard Wade Smith of Houston; safety LaRon Landry of the Jets; kick returner Jacoby Jones of Baltimore; and punter Dustin Colquitt of Kansas City.
For the NFC, first-timers were Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz; Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones; Seattle tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger; San Francisco guard Mike Iupati, linebacker NaVorro Bowman and safety Donte Whitner; Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings and defensive tackle Henry Melton; Washington tackle Trent Williams and special teamer Lorenzo Alexander; Minnesota fullback Jerome Felton; Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy; and New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead.
Eight teams had no Pro Bowl players: Carolina, Philadelphia and St. Louis in the NFC, Tennessee, Buffalo, Jacksonville, San Diego and Oakland in the AFC.
JETS: Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson suffered a concussion and injured a knee during the team’s loss to San Diego on Sunday, and his status for the season finale at Buffalo is uncertain. Wilkerson has been one of the Jets’ best performers on defense with 85 tackles, five sacks and three forced fumbles.
RAVENS: Linebacker Ray Lewis has been added to Baltimore’s roster, but Coach John Harbaugh said the 17-year veteran will not play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 37-year-old was placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list after tearing his right triceps Oct. 14. He has missed nine straight games.