Bly, who ranks fourth in the NFC with six interceptions, had a breakout season playing for a sad-sack Lions team that had few playmakers on defense or offense, wracking up 46 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 14 passes defended.
"It was great," said Bly of his selection as a pro bowler, "especially after experiencing what I have this year as far as coming in and everybody saying that I was overpaid or that I wasn't worth what the Lions are paying me.
"I know this year that things didn't pan out for the team, winning only four games so far, but it's still a reflection of my teammates and this organization. It's a great honor."
Lions head coach Steve Mariucci said Bly is deserving of the honor. "He came in here as a free agent last year, bought a home, settled into this area, never missed, in 14 weeks of the off-season program – weight workout or running program. That's pretty impressive for a veteran kind of guy. He leads by example. He tries to practice every practice if he can. He missed a little bit this year because of his hamstring but that's never happened before. He's a dedicated guy. He works at it and so we're happy for him. We're proud of him. It's well deserved." Detroit was surprised at receiving two additional selections, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and fullback Cory Schlesinger, who both were named as alternates to the squad. Mariucci felt Rogers played well enough to be a starter.
"With Shaun, there are some other veteran guys who have been there before. I'm guessing some of those guys made it and he's an alternate but he's only going to get better. He too had a good off-season. He's keeping his weight at a real playing sort of weight and has been very consistent and steady this year. That's helped him tremendously. He's only going to get better. He seems to be having more fun, he's more verbal out here and he's got a real upside."
The coach also felt Schlesinger's versatility played a big role in his selection.
"Cory, part of the reason that he made the Pro Bowl I would believe is his value to the team in more than just playing fullback. He's a 53 percent offensive player. That means he plays 53 percent of the snaps versus an offensive lineman who never comes off the field. But he plays 34 percent of our special teams snaps too so that's the added value that he has to this football team. It's not just blocking for the tailbacks but he's caught some passes and he plays on special teams. He's a very versatile athlete that way and he's very willing to do that. He's a team player and he's being recognized for that."
The one disappointment was the Jason Hanson, who has been the most outstanding kicker in the NFC was not named to the squad. Hanson, who sported the highest field goal accuracy percentage in the NFL at 95% (19-of-20) instead was beaten out by Jeff Wilkins (35-of-38) of St. Louis.
"I think everybody in this building and everybody in the state of Michigan knows that Jason Hanson is very capable of being a Pro Bowler and in our minds he is a Pro Bowler. He's as good as it gets. There are others who have kicked more field goals, who have had more attempts and more points and so the voting will go like that as we all know but in terms of who is the best guy, I can't imagine anybody is better than Jason Hanson. The other guys deserve to be in the Pro Bowl. They've been very productive and there are a handful of those guys as well."
The starters for the Pro Bowl game, Sunday, February 8th, will be announced on Wild Card weekend, Saturday, January 3, 2004.