The Cardinals had five players named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad Tuesday: (clockwise from bottom left) safety Adrian Wilson, receiver Anquan Boldin, receiver Larry Fitzgerald, quarterback Kurt Warner and special teamer Sean Morey (center).
The Cardinals are finally winners, and to the victors go the spoils – especially when it comes to the Pro Bowl.
With the Cardinals 8-6 and champions of the NFC West, five Cards were named to the NFC Pro Bowl team Tuesday: Quarterback Kurt Warner, wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, strong safety Adrian Wilson and special teamer Sean Morey. Warner, Fitzgerald, Boldin and Wilson were named starters.
Linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett were voted as alternates.
"It's a great day for the Cardinals, because there have been a number of years
where they have had good players and not gotten this recognition," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "A lot of times people want to point out the flaws and the faults of the Cardinals and one thing they don't seem to realize is the improvement and the respect other teams have for us. This is an indication of that."
The selections mark the first time since the Pro Bowl began in 1970 that a single team has both the starting quarterback and both starting wide receivers. It comes as no shock, since the trio has led arguably the most potent passing offense in the NFL this season.
"All things considered going into this year and even the last few years of my career (with) a lot of people's (lowered) expectations or belief of what I could do," Warner said, "there is some gratification to be selected to be in the Pro Bowl as one of the best players in the league.
"I'm excited, with the two receivers starting, it's awesome."
Fitzgerald joked that while the Pro Bowl playbook is usually basic, "maybe we can do some of our package with Kurt and jump on the AFC early."
The five Pro Bowlers are the most for the Cards since seven St. Louis Cardinals were chosen in 1977. The Cards hadn't had more than two players picked for a Pro Bowl since 1996, when tackle Lomas Brown, defensive tackle Eric Swann, cornerback Aeneas Williams and fullback Larry Centers went to Hawaii.
"The best part about this year is you have a lot more to go with it, with Fitz, Kurt, A-Dub, Sean Morey making it, us being able to get to the playoffs," Boldin said. "There is a lot more sense of pride and joy in it than past years."
Warner, who gained his fourth Pro Bowl selection, is going for the first time since after the 2001 season. He has 4,290 yards passing this season, with 26 touchdowns and a 97.4 passing rating – all numbers on pace to break franchise records.
Fitzgerald, the first Cardinal since Williams in 1998-99 to go to back-to-back Pro Bowls, has 88 catches for 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns. Boldin, despite missing two games with a facial fracture, has an NFC-best 89 catches for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns. He, like Fitzgerald, is headed to his third Pro Bowl.
Whisenhunt and every player acknowledged the Cards' success – they have won their first division title since 1975, and are going to the playoffs for the first time since 1998 – was the big reason so many players were selected.
Fitzgerald said a Pro Bowl means a lot, "but you play for the hardware, you play for the Super Bowls, you play for the playoffs."
"The Pro Bowl is a great trip to Hawaii, to take the family, reflect on the season," Fitzgerald added. "But you sit around the pool talking to guys and listening to how the playoffs are, what it felt to play in the Super Bowl, and it gets you thinking, 'This is nice, but I want to have some stories too when I'm sitting around drinking by the pool.' "
Only the Giants and Vikings, with six Pro Bowlers each, have more NFC players than the Cardinals.
Wilson, whose first Pro Bowl trip came after the 2006 season, has 79 tackles, 2½ sacks and two interceptions.
"There's a lot more that goes into the second time around," Wilson said. "You think more about the team and the things you accomplished this year.
"Once you get the credit the first time around, it feels good, but you always wish you had other guys going with you."
Wilson said he wanted to make sure Dockett and Dansby got the proper credit despite not making the roster.
Perhaps no player was more moved by the selection than Morey, the special-teams standout in his eighth season, fourth team and first Pro Bowl. Morey blocked the overtime punt against Dallas that turned into the Cards' game-winning touchdown.
Morey credited his hockey-playing wife for sacrificing her Olympic dream to let him play football, and credited every coach he had ever played for to reach such a personal achievement.
"I have lived my dream playing in the NFL," Morey said. "I have been cut more times than I'd like to admit. But even this team, I have a Heisman Trophy winner (Matt Leinart) and an NFL MVP (Warner) that I catch passes from every day at practice. I have been really blessed to come to Arizona."
Morey wasn't the only one to say he was honored. All five players said as much.
Still, Warner admitted as an older player, he looks forward to starting his offseason as soon as possible. That will have to wait with his Pro Bowl berth.
"A few years there, when things were going good, my kids were like, 'When are we going to Hawaii again?' " said Warner, who played in three straight Pro Bowls from 1999-2001. "There came a point where I had to tell them the vacations to Hawaii were stopping."
For Warner – and some teammates – another trip can be booked.
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 12/16/08. Updated 12/16/08.