The NFL will announce the Pro Bowl teams Tuesday afternoon after tallying players and coaches' voting over the weekend.
Players and coaches throughout the league voted on the subject late last week, making up two-thirds of the equation, with previous fan voting comprising the other third of the equation.
Nose tackle Pat Williams has been in the league for 11 years, but it wasn't until his 10th season that he was finally recognized with Pro Bowl honors as part of the Vikings' No. 1 rushing defense in 2006.
"It was like a blessing. I play the game and I know I'm good, so I don't have to have anyone tell me because that's what I always think. But last year it was a blessing," Williams said.
This year, however, Williams wasn't leading after the fan voting and he had an explanation for why that might be. Besides thinking that fans didn't spend enough time looking at who to vote for, there was also the part about Minnesota not being a hot enough media market to garner the fans' attention nationally.
"If you're in that fan-base city, they're going to vote for the guys. I don't care who it is," Williams said.
Williams' theory was advanced by other players in the locker room as well, but offensive tackle Ryan Cook had a simple theory.
"Whoever is on the more predominant winning teams is going to be the favorites. That's usually how it works," he said.
Offensive guard Anthony Herrera added to Cook's theory by saying a slow start for the Vikings may have had something to do with the fans' lack of recognition for the Vikings, but he fed into lack of national coverage in Minnesota as well.
"That could have had something to do with it, but we're up here in Minnesota also. The market up here is not bad, but it's not great. Not as much pub as far as getting your players out there. We're in Minnesota, we're all the way up north," Herrera said. "It's the fans and whoever they like or who's hot is how it goes."
Despite being cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana the day before we asked several players for their opinions on which teammates were deserving, safety Dwight Smith got a few mentions. The other players mentioned were far less controversial. Antoine Winfield, Adrian Peterson and Tony Richardson were uttered by at least one player. Defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams each got recognition, as did the interior of the Vikings' offensive line, center Matt Birk and guard Steve Hutchinson. Linebacker E.J. Henderson also received frequent mention.
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said the entire offensive line should get some consideration with the league's top-ranked rushing attack.
"They all should be Pro Bowlers. A lot of times the fans like the people that are out there and seen. They like the people that are on ‘The Team' – like the Patriots or the popular teams," Shiancoe said. "They go by what they see on TV. We watch film. Commercials, endorsements, all that helps when it comes to fans."
One of the fan selections that show the popularity contest of that part of the voting might be Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is probably the most recognizable middle linebacker name in the NFC. Urlacher had a great game against the Vikings on Monday night, recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass in the first quarter, but he has been struggling this season with a calf injury and an arthritic back. Meanwhile, younger players like the Vikings' Henderson and the San Francisco 49ers' Patrick Willis appear to be having more productive seasons.
Henderson was diplomatic when asked about Urlacher beating him out in the fan voting.
"It will be interesting to see. To even be talked about, that means I'm making some progress and working my way up. Even if I don't make it, it will give me something to shoot for next year or the year after," Henderson said before admitting that if he is picked by the coaches and players it would mean more anyway.
"Your peers are the ones that count and I think guys definitely want the respect of their peers. That's why you play and work so hard because you want the people that you play and work with to respect what you're doing."
Surprisingly, Henderson isn't the only Viking that was edged out of the fan voting by a Bear. Chicago defensive tackle Tommie Harris received more fan votes than either Pat or Kevin Williams, but Cook, who is friends with Urlacher, said his fellow University of New Mexico alumnus and Harris are having decent seasons.
"They've just had some tough breaks in their season. They're still playing at a pretty high level. I think they lost their last four games by four or less," Cook said last week.
Shiancoe said that players lobbying other players across the league for votes is considered taboo while Herrera preferred to believe there was more credibility in player voting.
"As a player, you don't want to see somebody in the Pro Bowl that didn't earn it. I know I don't and I know I hear a lot of players talking about it, that they don't want to see a player there that just has a name to him," Herrera said.
Pat Williams agreed.
"If players respect a guy, they'll vote for the guy if he's dominating week in and week out, not just one game," he said. "You can't just give four sacks and then fall off five games in a row. Just because you've got sack, it doesn't mean anything. You've got to dominate week in and week out."
After the fan voting, only Richardson and Peterson led at their respective positions, but the players and coaches voting could put additional Vikings on the NFC squad that will be announced late this afternoon.
"Your play speaks for itself," Herrera said.
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