The NFC Pro Bowl team was filled with surprises for the Green Bay Packers.
Aaron Rodgers was voted the starting quarterback for the all-star squad. No surprise there.
Clay Matthews was voted the lone reserve at outside linebacker, a mild surprise with Matthews missing four games with an injured hamstring.
Jeff Saturday was voted the backup at center. The Packers benched him last week.
They were the only Packers voted to the 43-man NFC roster. Chicago had five players named to the team — all starters — and Minnesota had four. Those teams, of course, are vying for the last spot in the NFC playoffs. The Packers, who are seventh in scoring offense and seventh in scoring defense, are the NFC North champions and positioned to earn a first-round playoff bye.
“I’d love to be voted in again,” Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday evening, about an hour before the Pro Bowl lineups were announced. “It’s an honor because you get voted on by your fellow players and coaches, as well as the fans. The fans have come through and helped me out again this year and I appreciate that. It’d be nice to be voted in again by my peers.”
Rodgers was selected to his third Pro Bowl, also getting the call in 2009 and 2011. Despite having top receiver tandem Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson on the field together for only about two games, Rodgers leads the NFL with a 106.2 passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio (35 touchdowns, eight interceptions for a ratio of 4.38-to-1).
"I've always put a lot of pressure on myself to play well every week,” Rodgers said in quotes distributed by the team. “I have high expectations, I know this organization and my teammates do as well, they expect me to play well. We've had some personnel changes and injuries this year, but guys have stepped up and we've been fortunate to keep it rolling. I know I personally prepare to be successful, Monday through Saturday, and I think that's why you see some of the success on the field on Sundays. I put a lot of time into it, I care about it, it means a lot to me, and I know my teammates are counting on me to play well every week.”
Matthews is the first player in franchise history to be selected in each of his first four seasons in the league. Only Matthews and Bill Forester (1959 through 1962) are four-time Pro Bowlers among linebackers in Packers history. He’s sixth in the league with 12 sacks despite missing a quarter of the season.
“It's pretty special to hear something like that,” Matthews said in the team-distributed quotes. “Obviously, there have been so many great players to have come through here, so it is very meaningful. But to me, making the Pro Bowl again really speaks a great deal to the team we have and what we've been able to accomplish over these past four years in my short tenure here. Hopefully, it's an early foreshadowing of things to come as far as the success not only for myself, but for this team.”
Saturday, signed in the offseason, was picked for his sixth Pro Bowl. He was replaced in the lineup by Evan Dietrich-Smith last week.
“I have enjoyed the young guys and playing next to new guys for me,” Saturday said. “I am disappointed for Josh Sitton; I think he should be there. It is disappointing for me for him. I would love to be able to pass it to him. He is a tough player and has played very well all season. I respect the heck out of the way he has played and it has been fun to play next to him. I’ve had fun playing with T.J. (Lang) and Evan. These guys have been a lot of fun to play with and, obviously, you depend on those guys. They make you look a lot better on game film, so I am very appreciative to those guys, as well.”
Sitton (guard) and Randall Cobb (kick returner) were named first alternates, and John Kuhn (fullback), B.J. Raji (defensive tackle), Tramon Williams (cornerback) and Charles Woodson (safety) are alternates.
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