The Cardinals got four players named to the Pro Bowl Tuesday: (Clockwise from top left) S Adrian Wilson, DT Darnell Dockett, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and WR Larry Fitzgerald.
Four Cardinals were named to the Pro Bowl, a game that this season will take place in the weekend between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
So coach Ken Whisenhunt hopes the four – defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, safety Adrian Wilson and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – don't get to play.
"That is the plan," Whisenhunt said with a smile. "The plan is that they are busy. In talking with them this afternoon, that's what we said. It's great, but we'd really like for you to be working at that time."
Dockett, Wilson and Fitzgerald were named starters.
"It is just a further sign of respect that other team's players, fans and coaches maybe have for our football players," Whisenhunt said.
Punter Ben Graham, who is nearing the NFL record for punts inside the 20-yard line with 39 and averages 47 yards a kick, was snubbed.
The Cardinals had a host of other players come up shy of the actual roster but were named alternates, meaning they would make it if someone drops out. Those players include Graham, quarterback Kurt Warner, safety Antrel Rolle, tackle Levi Brown, kicker Neil Rackers and special teamer Sean Morey. The league did not announce if the players were first, second or third alternates.
Alternates may play a greater role in this season's Pro Bowl because the game was moved. Since players from each Super Bowl participant won't play, and there are two fewer weeks for players banged up from the playoffs to recover, more players may beg off.
The three defensive players in the Pro Bowl are the most for the franchise since three went in 1970 – linebacker Larry Stallings, cornerback Roger Wehrli and safety Larry Wilson. The nine picks the past two seasons (Fitzgerald, Wilson, Morey, Warner and Anquan Boldin were named last year) are the most over a two-year span for the club since the team had 10 in 1977 and 1978.
Fitzgerald, who is second in the NFC in receptions with 94 (for 1,075 yards) and leads all wideouts in touchdown catches with 12, was the fifth-leading vote getter in the entire NFL from the fan ballot and led all receivers. Wilson also won the fan balloting at strong safety and has a career-high five interceptions to go with his two sacks.
Dockett is tied for the team lead (with defensive end Calais Campbell) with seven sacks and has been arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the conference.
"One thing that has shown up is you don't see as many penalties on Darnell," Whisenhunt said. "I think he has gotten some of his emotions under control and now he is letting his play speak for himself and I have no doubt that is one of the reasons he is on the team as a starter."
Rodgers-Cromartie, who has six interceptions in just his second season, has turned into a very good cornerback, although even he admits he has improving left to do.
Players weren't available on their day off, but both Fitzgerald and Dockett spread the word about their honor on Twitter a couple of hours before the official announcement on the NFL Network.
Said Dockett via Twitter, "its cool 2 have but I rather play in the SUPERBOWL!"
Of the players left out, Graham is the most surprising. On 82 punts this season, the Aussie has netted 40.5 yards a kick, and has only three touchbacks compared to his 39 inside the 20. He lost out to the 49ers' Andy Lee, who slightly leads Graham in average (47.7 to 47.0) and net (Lee's is 41.4), but has fewer inside the 20 (28) and has more touchbacks (7).
"I don't think we need validation from (a Pro Bowl pick) but I would have certainly liked to have seen that, because I think Ben has had a huge impact."
An equal surprise may have been the alternate status of Brown, who has struggled at times this season.
"I hope it provides the impetus for him to become even better," Whisenhunt said. "Maybe this will be recognition to the progress he has made and a lot of time it spurs the player to work even harder to make that next step."
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