Walker makes good on preseason goal

It took him seven fewer seasons than fullback William Henderson, but third-year receiver Javon Walker will play in his first Pro Bowl.

Walker has emerged as Brett Favre's go-to receiver. Walker ranks second in the NFC with 81 catches and 1,210 yards, and is tied for third with 10 touchdown catches. Walker joins New Orleans' Joe Horn, Carolina's Muhsin Muhammad and Philadelphia's Terrell Owens as the four wide receivers.

"Javon Walker, as I said to him, that's a tough group to break, those receivers in the NFC, because there's so many good ones," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "And to be classified as one of those certainly is an honor. I think he's deserving, he's had that type of year."

His breakout season made good on his preseason goal of being ranked with Owens and Randy Moss as one of the league's elite receivers. Moss, who missed a handful of games with a hamstring injury, did not make the NFC roster.

"Obviously, when you get voted to the Pro Bowl, that puts you amongst the best of the NFL," Walker said.

He'll be joined in Hawaii by Henderson, running back Ahman Green and guard Marco Rivera.

Green hasn't had nearly the season he did a year ago, when he rewrote a large chunk of the Packers' record book. Despite bruised rib cartilage that kept him out of two games and an early season barrage of fumbles, Green ranks fourth in the NFC with 1,086 rushing yards.

"Outside of the injuries, I felt I haven't played that well this season to be accepted," Green admitted.

Green is joined by Seattle's Shaun Alexander and the Giants' Tiki Barber.

This will be Rivera's third straight Pro Bowl. The veteran is the leader of the Packers' vaunted offensive line. Rivera is the first Packers offensive lineman with three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances since Gale Gillingham from 1969-71. The good news was tempered by the fact the rest of his linemates were left off the NFC roster.

"Yeah, it's a great honor to get selected again," Rivera said. "I don't know what to say, when you're part of a good offensive line, any of us could have gone. Mark Tauscher's had a great year, Chad Clifton's had a great year. Mike Wahle had an outstanding year.

"I believe Mike Wahle should be in the Pro Bowl. He had a great year. It's tough. Sometimes when you get caught up with the voting, some guys who deserve to make it don't make it and I believe he's one of those guys this year that should have been there, should be there with me."

Rivera is joined at guard by last year's Pro Bowlers, Seattle's Steve Hutchinson and Dallas' Larry Allen. That's the same trio as a year ago.

Left out were fellow guard Wahle, quarterback Brett Favre and kicker Ryan Longwell.

Wahle and Longwell were especially disappointed. Both are used to feeling slighted, though.

Wahle, who will find out how well he's regarded around the league if he becomes a free agent during the off-season, has certainly had a Pro Bowl-caliber year. His athleticism may be unmatched at his position.

"I'm not surprised. Put it that way," Wahle said. "What are you going to do? Congratulations to whoever (is going)."

Longwell, who no doubt is hurt by playing at Lambeau Field because the elements lead to extra missed kicks, shorter kickoffs and the lack of long field goals that impress voters, was beaten out by the Eagles' David Akers. Even three game-winning field goals failed to sway voters.

"To be honest with you, I don't know if it's possible to go as a Green Bay Packer," Longwell said. "That's a huge factor, kicking here and the small media market. It's tough, and so maybe it is impossible."

Wahle and Longwell were named as alternates, meaning if one of the Pro Bowl selections drops out, they are in the running to take their place. Other alternates are quarterback Brett Favre, cornerback Al Harris, tight end Bubba Franks, wide receiver Donald Driver, offensive tackle Chad Clifton and middle linebacker Nick Barnett. With Owens' season possibly finished due to Wednesday's ankle surgery, Driver has a shot at returning to the Pro Bowl.

Favre was beaten out by Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper, Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Atlanta's Michael Vick. Harris lost out to Detroit's Dre' Bly, Philadelphia's Lito Sheppard and Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber. The Packers' all-around defensive shortcomings may have hurt Harris' chances.

This year's Pro Bowl will be played Feb. 13. Starters will be named Jan. 8 during the wild-card playoffs on ABC.

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