Headlined by QB Russell Wilson, the Seahawks’ seven Pro Bowl selections are the most since 2005, when the team went to its first Super Bowl. Five more players were named as alternates.
The Seattle Seahawks tied a team record with seven players selected for the 2016 Pro Bowl, the NFL announced Tuesday.
The seven invited are defensive end Michael Bennett, safety Kam Chancellor, return specialist Tyler Lockett, cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas, linebacker Bobby Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seahawks also had seven players invited in 1984 and 2005.
The seven players invited also tied Arizona and New England for the second-most behind the 10 for undefeated Carolina.
The Seahawks also have five alternates to the Pro Bowl, which will be played in Honolulu on Jan. 31; defensive end Cliff Avril, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, kicker Steven Hauschka, running back Marshawn Lynch and offensive tackle Russell Okung. Those players could be added to the team if another player selected cannot play.
It is the first selection for Bennett, a seven-year veteran, and Lockett, a rookie. It is the fifth trip for Thomas, fourth for Chancellor and Wilson, third for Sherman and second for Wagner.
Of those not invited, the two who might have the most to argue are Baldwin and Avril.
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Sherman was among the Seahawks players specifically pumping up the candidacy of Baldwin, who has 10 touchdown receptions the past four weeks. On Sunday he became the third player in NFL history to catch at least two touchdown passes in four consecutive games, joining Cris Carter in 1995 and Calvin Johnson in 2011.
Baldwin, who has never made the game, said last week being invited would be a “huge honor” but hoped he would not be available to play in the game because it is held the weekend before the Super Bowl.
“I would be blessed to be selected at the Pro Bowl, but my plans are to not be able to participate in it,” said Baldwin, who has 65 receptions for 905 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, tying a franchise record set in 1985 by Daryl Turner. “Like I said, one game at a time. We’re focused on the season. If that happens, I’m more than happy, more than blessed to be in that situation, but I’m worried about the season right now.”
Avril, who has 7.5 sacks, also has not made the game and said recently: “I think it would be cool for me personally, just for the simple fact that I’ve done it all. I’ve lost every game, I’ve won a Super Bowl, and making it to the Pro Bowl would be pretty cool, too.”
The Seahawks defense, which ranks second in the NFL, had five players invited. That is the most defensive players they have had selected. And it is the fourth time in the past five years that the Seahawks sent three members of their secondary to the Pro Bowl.
Bennett ranks third in the NFC in sacks with 9.5, a career high with two games remaining in the regular season.
Lockett, who makes it as a return specialist, became the only other rookie in NFL history aside from Gale Sayers in 1965 to have at least six touchdown receptions, a kickoff-return touchdown and a punt=return touchdown in a season. Lockett also set a franchise record with a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown vs. Chicago on Sept. 27.
Thomas ranks fourth on the team with 59 tackles (41 solo) and leads the team with four interceptions.
Wagner ranks second on the team with 101 tackles (56 solo), becoming the second player in franchise history to record four consecutive 100-tackle seasons (Terry Beeson did it from 1977-80).
Wilson made it on the strength of one of the more productive stretches in NFL history, throwing 19 touchdowns and no interceptions the past five games and leading the NFL in passer rating at 111.4. He has set a career high with 29 touchdown passes, which is three off the team record of 32 set by Dave Krieg in 1984.
Under the new Pro Bowl format, players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl draft on Jan. 27, televised on ESPN2. That means Seahawks players could play against each other in the game if they are not in the Super Bowl. Former NFL players Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin will serve as team captains and will pick the teams.
Players on the winning Pro Bowl side receive $58,000, and players on the losing team $29,000 (players on Super Bowl teams who are invited but do not play receive the middle of those two numbers, or $43,500).
A fan vote accounts for one-third of the balloting for the game, with votes of players and coaches counting for an additional one-third each. Voting was completed before last weekend’s games.
Shortly after the selections, Avril tweeted congratulations to Bennett: