With one week left in the season, the Patriots find themselves in a familiar position: atop the AFC East and headed for the playoffs. Also familiar: a bevy of Pro Bowlers on their roster. On Wednesday, the NFL announced the Pro Bowl teams and New England had seven players make it: QB Tom Brady, WR Wes Welker, TE Rob Gronkowski, G Logan Mankins, DT Vince Wilfork, LB Jerod Meyo and ST Matthew Slater.
Only the 49ers and Texans had more players (nine and eight, respectively) make the team.
Here are reactions from those Patriots headed to Hawaii (assuming New England doesn't make it back to the Super Bowl) courtesy of the team by way of ESPNBoston.com:
Vince Wilfork: “To be selected to my fifth Pro Bowl is amazing. I am honored and humbled. More importantly, I am proud that the other guys on my team are getting the recognition they deserve.”
Jerod Mayo: “It’s an honor to be recognized by my peers, the coaches and the fans, but it’s more of an honor to be one of seven of my teammates going to Hawaii, since that is a reflection of our overall team success. We’ll all enjoy the recognition tonight with our families and be right back to focusing on the Dolphins in the morning.”
Matthew Slater: “I am very thankful to be selected to the Pro Bowl. God has blessed me with this opportunity and the ability to stay healthy. I have a lot of people to thank. An honor like this does not come without your teammates next to you making plays. I want to thank coach Belichick for believing in me and taking a chance on me so I can live out my childhood dreams of playing in the NFL. Coach Scott O’Brien has pretty much changed my career with the way he teaches and coaches me. I also need to thank Joe Judge for what he has been able to teach me.”
Logan Mankins: “We have a lot of guys who earned the honor this year, so that is pretty cool. It’s always nice to have your peers, coaches and fans select you to the Pro Bowl. Getting voted in is always a reflection of our team success. While I do appreciate this recognition, we need to get ready and keep our focus on the game this week against Miami.”
Tom Brady: “It is flattering to be selected, but I have always considered Pro Bowl recognition as a reflection of the team’s overall success. I am happy for my many teammates who were selected again this year. I know that there are many others who are equally deserving of the opportunity. One day, I am sure I will have a greater appreciation for individual accomplishments, but this week my focus is simply on our preparations for Miami.”
If we had one quibble it would be with Welker. Yes, he's had another 1,000-yard-plus season but his numbers don't comparison to Denver's Demaryius Thomas (and even Thomas' teammate, Eric Decker). In general, though, the honors were well deserved. Of course, the Pats aren't thinking about Hawaii right now. They're focused on the the Dolphins and beyond that, New Orleans.