Clifton certainly deserved to be named to the NFC squad instead of being a first alternate. Instead, three other tackles who have been to the Pro Bowl at least four times each are scheduled to play in Honolulu on Feb. 10. They include the Cowboys' Flozelle Adams, Seattle's Walter Jones and Washington's Chris Samuels. Adams was named to his fourth Pro Bowl and Jones his eighth. Both are the starters with Samuels making his fifth Pro Bowl appearance.
If the Pro Bowl participants were picked by statistics, Clifton would be a starter. The eighth-year pro again is protecting Brett Favre's blind side from the left side of the offensive line, and doing it well. Favre has not been sacked in 134 pass plays, 19 shy of the longest streak of his career. Favre dropped back to pass 153 consecutive times in 2004 before he was sacked. And Green Bay's offensive line has given up just 17 sacks this season, second best in the National Football League. Seattle's offensive line has given up 30 sacks to its quarterbacks, Washington 24 sacks, and Dallas 23 sacks. The sack stats alone say that Clifton, who goes up against the opponents' best pass rusher weekly, must be doing something right. Also, Clifton has only been guilty of one holding and one false start penalty this season.
"If you've ever had to play without a top-notch left tackle then you would probably appreciate Chad more," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "We have individuals like that."
What is more amazing is that after Clifton was the victim of a cheap, blindsided hit by Warren Sapp in 2002 that nearly ended his career, he has gone on to start 77 of 78 games. The only game he missed occurred last season when he was overcome by the flu hours before Green Bay's game at Miami.
So like Henderson, who was there at fullback game after game after game for the Packers from 1995-06, Clifton is buried behind players who are voted in on a yearly basis no matter how they are playing individually or as a team. Henderson was stuck behind Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott forever till he finally broke through to make the NFC squad in 2004. Clifton will make the Pro Bowl team some day, but may have to wait till Jones, in his 11th season, or Adams, in his 10th season, hangs it up before he gets the free trip to Hawaii.
Though Clifton is playing at a Pro Bowl level this season, there is no red flag that he can toss to challenge the ruling. Some things in the NFL are far from exact.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.