Pro Bowl comes on the heels of success

Shane Lechler wasn't taking anything for granted when it came to the Pro Bowl. Despite being leading the NFL in punting this season, the Raiders' veteran special teams standout was hardly ready to make plans for a trip to Hawaii.

"I woke up Tuesday morning and told my wife, ‘Well, we'll see what happens. This is just a flip of the coin. It could go either way.'" Shane Lechler said Wednesday, a day after learning that he was indeed selected as the AFC's punter. "I was not sure about it at all. It's just one of those deals where you don't know. I really thought I would have been in it a couple years ago but it's strange. The Pro Bowl voting is a strange deal how it works out. You see some of the guys that lead fan voting here and there and it's one of those things … it's really, I think, especially in a punter situation you're going to have to cover all angles."

Lechler's apprehension is understandable. Though he's routinely been among the league leaders every season, he had only been voted to two previous Pro Bowls (2001, 2004). Even last season, when he set a career-high for punting average, Lechler was passed over.

That wasn't the case this season, though he was the only Raiders player selected. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was named second alternate.

" As I told our guys early on in the year, a lot of guys a lot of times individual awards come from team success," Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said. "That's why you want you want to have team success, and the other stuff will come afterward. The individual stuff doesn't come first. As an example, there are a number of quality players on our team, but when you only get four (wins) you aren't going to get many in. The more you win, the more you play as a team, the more success you have as a team, the more individual awards will come from that. On the same note, that's a tribute to Shane, on a team with four wins that he can make it."

Asomugha, who was selected as an alternate last season but did not attend the game because of late notice, is holding out hope that he will get to make it to this year's game. Walking through Oakland's locker room Wednesday, Asomugha told Lechler to keep a seat on the plane warm for him.

"Actually it's less frustrating this year for some reason," Asomugha said. "I don't know why I'm not thinking about it as much as I was last year. Last year I had eight (interceptions) so I thought there would be a good chance. this year I only had one and I knew the name wasn't out there as much and we weren't winning. So I wasn't really expecting a whole lot. But I still have been dominant, much more than I was last year, this year."


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