The Pro Bowl selection was once known in Baltimore as the “Jonathan Ogden Invitation,” first quoted by former Baltimore Ravens (11-4) head coach now NFL analyst Brian Billick, as the once left tackle in Ogden was named to the Pro Bowl for 11 consecutive seasons.
The purple and black will send seven players to the league’s annual All-Star game in Hawaii. Among the seven, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was not honored with a Pro Bowl invitation. After four successful seasons as the signal-caller, guiding the Ravens to four straight postseason appearances, will Flacco ever make the Pro Bowl, and if so, what does he have to do to be among the NFL’s elites?
“It’s definitely an honor and blessing,” said safety Ed Reed, who is among the seven players to be honored by the NFL Tuesday . “To come back after an injury last year and to be voted by my peers and fans is special. I am very appreciative of this honor, but right now, there are bigger goals in mind. With the Bengals coming up this week and a push to the playoffs, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but this is definitely something I am proud of and am thankful for.”
Along with Reed (who is making his eighth appearance), linebackers Ray Lewis (13th appearance) and Terrell Suggs (fifth appearance), running back Ray Rice (second appearance), FB Vonta Leach (second appearance), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (third appearance) and guard Marshal Yanda (first appearance).
“I am ecstatic, that is really the only thing I can say,” said Yanda. “This is such a great honor, something that I never really expected. When I made it to the NFL, I was so happy to be on a team and playing in the league, and now, to be a part of a Pro Bowl team is something very special.
“You don’t get there alone; you have to be on a good team and playing well as a unit,” he continued. “I am thankful for my teammates and coaches who helped me get to where I am.”
Other than Yanda, the other six representatives are starters. Whenever a team can produce numerous starters for an All-Star game, it truly speaks volumes for an organization.
“This means a lot to me, especially with it being my first year on a new team,” said Leach. “With changing teams, the lockout and trying to learn a new playbook, I am so proud and happy to be going with my backfield mate [Ray Rice]. This is a great thing and something to celebrate. But, that will have to wait until after the season. Right now we are getting ready for Cincinnati and a strong playoff run.”
Clearly, the Pro Bowl is definitely an honor, an honor countless NFL players currently and from decades past have never worn the red or blue jersey representing their respective conferences. For the Ravens’ selectees, they’re not looking forward to the Pro Bowl in sunny Hawaii (although they’re are greatly appreciative), but have their heart and emotions set on chilly Indianapolis for the Super Bowl.
“First off, I definitely want to give a tremendous amount of credit to my coaches, especially Clarence Brooks and Ted Monachino,” said Suggs. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I felt like a kid when I got the call; I was excited and honored. This wouldn’t be possible without my teammates. Without the secondary making the QBs hold the ball, or the linebackers plugging up those holes, I wouldn’t have the chance to do what I do, and I am thankful for them.
“I also want to thank the fans who voted for me,” he added. “But to be clear, I have no intentions of playing in the Pro Bowl. I plan on being in practice with my teammates that week, getting ready for the Super Bowl.”
Ngata seconded that emotion.
“It is a privilege and honor to be considered one of the best at your position among your peers, coaches and fans,” said Ngata. “When I found out, I felt the same way I did the first time I made it. I know that this wouldn’t be possible without my teammates. Hopefully, though, I won’t be able to play in the Pro Bowl, because I want to be playing in Indy [at the Super Bowl].”
Among the alternates, guard Ben Grubbs is the first alternate, linebacker/special team specialist Brendon Ayanbadejo is the second alternate and fourth alternate is offensive tackle Michael Oher.
Flacco is a third alternate, along with safety Bernard Pollard.
Traditionally, Pro Bowl quarterbacks are gunslingers, who average near 4,000 passing yards each year, with a killer instinct.
Flacco is a victim of a several things—himself, the coaching staff, his team and the other solid quarterbacks in the AFC.
Himself: Flacco struggles from time to time with consistency. However, Flacco is an above-average quarterback who’s capable of making the big throws.
His coaching staff: Oftentimes, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is criticized locally and nationally for handcuffing Flacco, as the four-year signal-caller is not allowed to display his full capabilities as a NFL quarterback.
His team: Flacco is blessed and cursed for having a dynamic defense to support him and gives him opportunities to right some wrongs, which he normally does. In addition, having a superstar running back in Rice helps Flacco constantly in times of need.
The AFC: Most specifically, Flacco is in a conference with the likes of some of the league’s quarterbacks best in New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning, San Diego Chargers’ Phillips Rivers, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and Houston Texans’ Matt Schaub, who will nearly command a Pro Bowl spot – If healthy.
Nevertheless, from knowing Flacco, he does not care about making the Pro Bowl, currently, just winning games en route to earning a Super Bowl title. As a team, Flacco and his mates are focusing on the Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) to achieve greater success this postseason, which is unfinished business.
“This is a great honor, and I really want to thank my offensive line and coaches for helping me to become the player I am,” said Rice. “This is a team award, and I hope that everyone on our team can take pride in the fact that they helped seven of their teammates attain this honor. Also, thanks to my peers, coaches and fans that voted me in. But, I will celebrate after the season. We have unfinished business to take care of over the next few weeks.”