Wednesday, December 22, 2004

5 to Pro Browl

By Adam H. Beasley, from the official site of the Baltimore Raves
Ravens sacks leader Terrell Suggs earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl Wednesday, where he will join four teammates that represented the AFC a year ago.

Suggs, fellow linebacker Ray Lewis, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, safety Ed Reed and cornerback Chris McAlister were all named to the 2004 Pro Bowl.

When head coach Brian Billick announced the selections to his team following its Wednesday walk-through, Suggs got the biggest cheer.

“I didn’t think I was going to go this year, for the simple fact that I didn’t go last year,” Suggs said. “I thought it was just a popularity contest, and I didn’t think I was that popular yet. I get to go over there and play with Ray and Ed and Chris and JO and the other Pro Bowl players, so I’m happy.”

Suggs has recorded 9½ sacks this year, tied for third in the AFC. He has also become a complete player in his second NFL season, playing the entire year as an outside linebacker.

Suggs won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors a year ago, but played solely in passing situations for most of the season. This year, he has 61 tackles, recovered two fumbles and forced another.

For Ogden and Lewis, an invitation to the Pro Bowl has become an annual tradition. Ogden is making his eighth consecutive visit, a team record, while Lewis is going for the seventh time.

“We like to refer to it as the Jonathan Ogden Invitation, as opposed to the Pro Bowl,” said Ravens coach Brian Billick. “As we know, the Pro Bowl also has sort of a cumulative presence, which is right, to a degree. [We are] well represented.”

Ogden earned a berth despite missing four games due to various injures. In the 10 games he has started, the Ravens have averaged 141.9 rushing yards per game. In those he has missed, they have gained just 95.8 per contest.

Lewis again leads the Ravens in tackles with 184, has recovered two fumbles and forced another. While Lewis has not made as many game-changing plays as he did a year ago, he has consistently played at a high level, helping the Ravens rank sixth in total defense and fourth in points allowed per game.

“It’s the same feeling now [as it was the first time],” Lewis said. “Every year you go out and you always want the respect of your peers, the respect of your fans, the respect of your coaches and opposing coaches. Anytime you gain that respect from all three aspects, you have to be overwhelmed.”

Reed, who leads the league with eight interceptions and is a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and McAlister are both making their second visit to Honolulu.

Reed also has two defensive touchdowns, including the NFL-record 106-yard interception return against the Browns on national television.

McAlister’s stats are not as gaudy as some of his teammates, but that is due in large part to the fact that teams do not throw on him very often. McAlister has an interception, two fumble recoveries, seven pass defenses and 39 tackles.

The corner also has a pair of defensive touchdowns, but he was not sure if that was enough to get picked.

“I didn’t know. I didn’t think so,” McAlister said. “You never know what’s going to happen. It is what it is. You see guys that get in, they stay in. It’s hard to kick guys out.”

Kicker Matt Stover was selected as a first alternate. Stover, a Pro Bowler in 2000, ranks second in the AFC in field goal percentage (92.9) and third in points (104).

Suggs was interviewed by NFL Network’s Rich Eisen shortly after he got the news, which will appear on “Total Access” at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Also, Lewis will appear on ESPN’s NFL Pro Bowl special Wednesday night.