Should have been a Dozen

The Chargers have a league-best nine players heading to the Pro Bowl. Several are turning the trip to Hawaii into a habitual affair: LaDainian Tomlinson (4), Antonio Gates (3), Lorenzo Neal (3), Shawne Merriman (2) and Jamal Williams (2). Others, such as Philip Rivers, Nick Hardwick, Nate Kaeding and Kassim Osgood, will lose their all-star virginities.

Seeing as no team has more all-stars than San Diego, it is hard to complain about snubs. But the fact of the matter is the Chargers may have more slighted players than any other team.

The list of players who should have been Hawaii-bound begins with Kris Dielman. The Chargers may actually be happy Dielman wasn't selected; that would have only driven up his price should he hit free agency after the season. Nonetheless, he is a dominating in-line blocker who has led the way for the majority of Tomlinson's big runs.

Dielman has made great gains in pass protection, too. A former defensive lineman, the four-year veteran has improved every year he has been in the league. He is a blue-collar player who instills the offense with a much-needed sense of attitude and was certainly deserving of an invite.

"Dielman has had a terrific season," coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

The second player snubbed was Luis Castillo. His chances were hurt when he missed four games midseason with an ankle injury. However, if Merriman can get voted in despite missing four games because of a steroid violation, surely Castillo's injury-related absence can be excused.

Castillo has registered 48 tackles and seven sacks in just 10 games. Although his sack numbers aren't as gaudy as those posted by the players selected ahead of him, Castillo's effectiveness against the run must be taken into consideration as well. He is the type of complete defensive end that has not been seen since Michael Strahan was in his prime.

As selfless as he is, Castillo is unapt to complain.

"The most important thing in this league is getting wins," he said.

The final Charger played unjustly left on the outside looking in was Mike Scifres. Because of his stellar hangtime and directional control, fewer than 40 percent of his punts have been returned. Additionally, he has landed 29 kicks inside the 20-yard line while only two have gone for touchbacks.

"You come into each season trying to do equal or better every year," said Scifres during the offseason. "If you come in expected less you're setting yourself up to fail. No one wants to be the same; everyone wants to go higher or higher. I look at every day as an opportunity to get better."

There is still a chance for these players to end up in Hawaii. Dielman and Scifres are first alternates, as is Marcus McNeill. Castillo, like Shaun Phillips, is a second alternate.

The nine Pro Bowl invites were a terrific complement to the team's success. Three more would have been even better.

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