Three Green Bay Packers were picked for the NFC Pro Bowl team on Tuesday night.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was selected, a fitting honor for sustained excellence and leading the Packers’ season back from the brink.
Guard T.J. Lang was selected, a past-due salute to one of the game’s most underrated offensive linemen.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was selected, a nod to one of the game’s budding young stars.
This is Rodgers’ sixth Pro Bowl selection while Lang and Clinton-Dix are first-time selections. All three were selected as backups. Atlanta's Matt Ryan will start at quarterback, Dallas' Zack Martin and Washington's Brandon Scherff will start at guard, and Minnesota's Harrison Smith will start at free safety.
Rodgers ranks second in the NFL with 32 touchdown passes, fourth with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4.57-to-1, fifth with a 100.3 passer rating and sixth with 3,781 passing yards. He’s been at his best over the past eight games, with a league-high 22 touchdowns and a second-ranked 2,611 passing yards in helping push the Packers into playoff position.
Lang’s honor oddly comes in one of his most challenging seasons. From 2011 through 2015, Lang started 78 of a possible 80 regular-season games. This year, he missed three starts with a broken foot and has battled a sore hip, as well.
"He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever played with," Rodgers said last week. "The stuff that he’s dealt with over the years is remarkable. He doesn’t complain about it. He goes out there and plays and pushes through it. He’s a stud, and I’m really glad he’s protecting me. just the example that he sets about pain management, I think, is great for all of us to see a guy like that and know how much he deals with on a week to week basis. How much he pushed himself to be out there last week was a big lift for our team."
The eighth-year pro has been a driving force on an offense that ranks seventh in scoring despite a myriad of issues early in the season.
"I'm speechless guys. All I can say is no way in hell I could get this honor without my OL brothers," Lang said on Twitter, pointing to right tackle Bryan Bulaga in particular. "We share this honor."
Clinton-Dix, the team’s first-round pick in 2014, is the Packers’ first Pro Bowl safety since Nick Collins in 2010. After intercepting three passes in his first two seasons, Clinton-Dix is tied for second in the NFL and tied for first among safeties this year with five interceptions.
"I come into this office every day and work hard, and get better each and every day," Clinton-Dix said earlier in the day. "That’s one of my goals, but right now I’m focused on the Minnesota Vikings."
Left tackle David Bakhtiari and wide receiver Jordy Nelson were named first alternates. Other alternates are wide receiver Davante Adams, defensive tackle Mike Daniels and fullback Aaron Ripkowski. Bakhtiari is arguably the biggest snub.
“Just to point out a few guys, obviously, I think everybody on the offensive line is very well-deserving,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “David Bakhtiari as much as any of those guys, T.J. Lang deserves to go, Bryan Bulaga has had a great season. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix I think should be a no-doubter, as well, and I think Morgan Burnett should be there. We've had a number of guys play some real good football for us. Nick Perry has had a great season a well for us and I think deserves consideration, if not to get voted in. But, as you know how it goes, a lot of times it's a popularity contest, that guys sometimes don't get in until a year after they're deserving.”
In the NFC North, Minnesota had four selections while Chicago and Detroit had none. Oakland had seven selections, followed by Atlanta with six, and Dallas, Pittsburgh and Tennessee with five. (CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL LISTS.)
Former Packers cornerback Casey Hayward, the NFL's leader in interceptions with San Diego, was selected.
The game will be played on Jan. 29 in Orlando, Fla.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.