A number of Seattle Seahawks are in consideration for an honor they hope they won’t have to accept in person.
All of them would far rather be on their way to New York to participate in the Feb. 2 Super Bowl XLVIII than in Hawaii for the Jan. 26 Pro Bowl.
Players on Super Bowl teams, obviously, have not appeared in the Pro Bowl since it was moved to the Sunday between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
The players and coaches voted Monday, while fan voting (one-third of the consideration) ends at 3 p.m. Thursday. The rosters will be announced at 3 p.m. Friday.
As of last week, four Seahawks had the highest fan totals at their position: Center Max Unger, cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor and safety Earl Thomas.
Three others were second at their position: running back Marshawn Lynch, punter Jon Ryan and kicker Steven Hauschka.
Tackle Russell Okung was voted in last season, but missed eight games with a toe injury.
Most of those who represented the Seahawks last season will be strong candidates this year, as the Hawks are 12-3 with the chance to claim the NFC West Division title Sunday at home against the St. Louis Rams.
But fan voting tends to be a popularity contest, or sometimes residual recognition for excellence in previous seasons.
So the question was posed in the Seahawks locker room: Who are a few deserving of the honor who might be overlooked on Friday when the winners are announced?
“There’s a lot of guys you could throw into that group,” said fullback Michael Robinson, a Pro Bowl participant in 2011. “But there’s guys like Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane who probably really don’t get the recognition they deserve for being so important in our defense.”
Mebane and Bryant, nose tackle and defensive end, respectively, play positions that sometimes defy statistical measurement. Mebane has 39 tackles, four quarterback hits and a pass defensed; Bryant has 31 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pass defensed.
Many voters judge defenders on sacks, particularly at Bryant’s end spot, where the fan-vote leaders are prodigious sackers Robert Quinn (St. Louis) and J.J. Watt (Houston).
Mebane and Bryant are key run-stoppers and penetrators on early downs, and are often replaced in passing situations, so their stats don’t reflect their impact.
But “Mebane’s been doing it ever since he’s been in the league,” Robinson said. “Even when I was with (San Francisco), he was a guy we had to game-plan against.”
Sherman, an All-Pro cornerback, said the frequent rotation of defensive linemen minimizes the attention they get from the public. “They have a tremendous impact on who we are,” Sherman said. “Mebane and Red definitely deserve a shot. Mike Bennett (7.5 sacks) has been having a heckuva season, and so had Cliff Avril (eight sacks). For the (limited) number of snaps they’re taking, their stats are eye-popping.”
The individual statistics, Sherman said, get overshadowed “because our defense is about everybody working in.”
Unger, at center, deals with the Seahawks defensive front every day in practice and gets a hands-on sampling of their talents.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of guys here who are deserving,” Unger said. “It’s crazy to me that Mebane and Red haven’t been voted into a Pro Bowl. Just dealing with them in practice, they’re incredibly difficult to block. Obviously we can’t vote for our own (teammates), but I’d give them the biggest endorsement.”
Jeremy Lane and Chris Maragos also earned mention by teammates as candidates for inclusion as special-teamers.
Chancellor said he’s too focused on the final game to think about individual honors. And, in a critical sense, such things are not as important as the respect that’s earned from teammates.
“Not everybody can see the work that guys put in, or really know how important they are to their team,” Chancellor said. “In the locker room and on the practice field, we see that; we see how they go about their work. As long as their teammates see that, and earn that respect, that’s all that really matters in this locker room.”
Yes, the conspicuous playmakers and award-winners are crucial, but the foundation of successful teams often rests with those who supply a degree of unnoticed excellence.
Robinson recalled the 2000 Washington Redskins, who paid a fortune to get superstars Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith but ended up 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
“You can’t buy a championship,” Robinson said. “You need some superstars who are going to make their way, but you need the really good role guys to win a championship.”