Five Ravens make the Pro Bowl

OWINGS MILLS -- Middle linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed remained fixtures in the Pro Bowl for the Baltimore Ravens, but the most remarkable all-star selection from Tuesday night is kicker Billy Cundiff.

Joining Lewis, Reed, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the former journeyman kicker beat the odds with a breakthrough season that earned him a spot on the AFC squad for the first time. It was a deserving nod of recognition for Cundiff, who beat out former Pro Bowl kicker Shayne Graham during a preseason competition. Cundiff leads the NFL with 38 touchbacks and is two shy of tying Mitch Berger for the NFL single-season record.

He connected on 88.9 percent of his field goals, hitting 24 of 27 kicks and made all 38 of his extra points to generate a career-high 110 points. "I am humbled, as this is such a great honor," Cundiff said. "This is the result of having great teammates and coaches surrounding you. I worked my butt off to prove to our coaches that they made the right choice, and, hopefully, this gives them a little gratification." It does.

Cundiff's selection justifies the Ravens' faith in him after he spent the offseason building his leg strength to improve his kickoffs. After finishing last season as the Ravens' kicker after the Steve Hauschka experiment was a failure, Cundiff dedicated himself to getting stronger during the offseason.

"This is a testament to Billy's hard work and determination," Ravens special teams teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "Billy has shown incredible perseverance throughout his career, and he has always remained dedicated to becoming a great kicker in the NFL. "I believe that the other players in this league not only respect what he has done, but also how he has done it. He never lost faith in himself, and he continued to improve. He is richly deserving of this honor, as is his wife, Nicole, who has been tremendously supportive." Probably the Ravens' biggest Pro Bowl snub is punter Sam Koch, who has downed 37 punts inside the 20-yard line and is averaging 43.2 yards per punt.

Koch was named a first alternate along with offensive guard Ben Grubbs and fullback Le'Ron McClain, a two-time selection who was beaten out by Houston Texans fullback Vonta Leach who blocked for Arian Foster. Quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive tackle Michael Oher are third alternates and wide receiver Anquan Boldin, strong safety Dawan Landry and running back Ray Rice were named fourth alternates. Rice made the Pro Bowl last year, and Boldin is a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

"I'm happy for those who made it," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I'm also pleased for the alternates who get to know that players and coaches around the league think highly of them. Plus, it gives them something to shoot for." For Lewis, this marks his 12th Pro Bowl selection. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the year leads the Ravens with 134 tackles and has recorded two sacks, two interceptions with one returned for a touchdown, four pass deflections, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. The Ravens rank third in the NFL in points allowed, surrendering 17.5 points per game. "Wow, No. 12 feels like No. 1," Lewis said. "I tell my teammates that I am going to train to be a Pro Bowl player that season, and my focus paid off again this season. This never gets old. "This is the greatest honor ever, because this is from the fans, the coaches and your peers. You can never take anything for granted, and I never take this for granted. I am blessed with great teammates, and I wouldn't be here without them. I feel this is a team award." Reed made it for the seventh time despite missing the first six games of the season on the physically unable to perform list following offseason hip surgery. Reed has intercepted six passes to lead the team in only nine games. Since returning on Oct. 24, he's tied with New England Patriots rookie cornerback Devin McCourty for the NFL lead in interceptions.

Anchoring the Ravens' front seven, Ngata made it to the Pro Bowl again. The powerful, athletic 6-foot-4, 350-pounder registered 64 tackles and a career-high 5 1/2 sacks.

The Ravens rank fourth in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up 94.2 yards per game. Suggs is the Ravens' only non-starter on the AFC Pro Bowl team, but made it as a backup. This is his fourth Pro Bowl selection. Suggs made a strong comeback after slumping to a career-low for sacks last season when he reported to training camp overweight at 283 pounds after signing a six-year, $62.5 million contract. Last season, he also dealt with a sprained knee and an off-field issue involving the mother of his two children that has since been resolved.

This season, Suggs leads the team with 11 sacks and is one shy of tying his single-season best from when he was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Suggs has 55 tackles and two forced fumbles and has 7 1/2 sacks in the past eight games. "This is awesome," Suggs said. "The only thing that would be better than this is a Super Bowl. It has been a long few years, and to come back and be recognized by your peers is amazing.

"This is something you can't do by yourself, it takes a unit. I have to thank my teammates, especially the defense, and particularly Haloti, for pushing me to do the little extra things when I didn't want to."

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