Niners Pro Bowl streak will end at 24 years

Not even Brian Jennings could save the 49ers this time. On Sunday, the futility of the 2005 Niners will stretch into 2006 when the Pro Bowl is played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu without one player in a San Francisco uniform participating between the white lines.

It's a new low point for the 49ers, who have had at least one representative on the NFC squad in each of the past 24 renditions of the NFL's annual all-star game.

The 49ers were blanked in Pro Bowl voting this season for the second consecutive year and will not have a player in the game for the first time since going three consecutive seasons from 1978-1980 without Pro Bowl representation.

San Francisco didn't have any of its players selected in balloting of players, coaches and fans last year, either, but Jennings – the 49ers' premier long-snapper – kept the team's streak of representation alive when he was a late addition to the NFC squad as a need player.

Jennings was added to the NFC team by Atlanta coach Jim Mora, who was coaching the NFC one season after serving his final season as the 49ers' defensive coordinator. With the Carolina Panthers' staff coaching the NFC this year, the 49ers hardly were so fortunate. Philadelphia long-snapper Mike Bartrum was added as the NFC's need player this year.

So the 49ers' last-gasp hope of having a player added late to the NFC roster this week did not materialize.

Skeptics have piled on the 49ers in recent seasons regarding the team's lack of talent, and the Pro Bowl shutout is a vivid example. Not only won't the 49ers have a player in the game this year, but they really didn't even come close.

Only one San Francisco player – linebacker Julian Peterson – was named a first alternate at his position. And Peterson – indisputably a great talent – didn't deserve to go this year after having an average season (by his high standards) in his comeback year from a serious Achilles tendon tear that ended his 2004 season.

The cast of outside linebackers ahead of Peterson on the NFC squad – starters Derrick Brooks of Tampa Bay and Keith Brooking of Atlanta and reserve Lance Briggs of Chicago – didn't exactly have seasons that blew away Peterson's, but neither of those three pulled out of the game this week, which would have been the only way Peterson would receive a third Pro Bowl invitation in four years.

Kicker Joe Nedney had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, to be sure, but kickers on bad teams don't make the Pro Bowl unless they have a phenomenal individual season. The best Nedney could do was third-alternate status behind Arizona's record-setting Neil Rackers and New York's Jay Feely.

When going down the San Francisco roster, there was only one other player – one – that could even be considered as Pro Bowl worthy for his performance in 2005. And Bryant Young's season was sabotaged by a knee injury in Week 11 after he'd recorded eight sacks in San Francisco's first nine games.

But even Young – a four-time Pro Bowler – wasn't going to make it this season after being switched from tackle to end in San Francisco's new 3-4 defensive alignment. Young was not going to make the NFC squad ahead of starters Julius Peppers of Carolina and Michael Strahan of New York and reserve Osi Umenyiora of New York. Young wasn't even named as an alternate.

It's another black eye for an organization that has taken several over the past two years. Besides that three-year stretch at the turn of the decade between 1970-1980, this is the only season in the 49ers' 60-year history that the team won't be represented at the Pro Bowl.


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