Five Seahawks headed to Pro Bowl

After sending no players to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010, the Seahawks will be sending five players — at least — to Hawaii for the second consecuitve year following this season.

Center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung were both named starters on the NFC squad Wednesday, while safety Earl Thomas and running back Marshawn Lynch were named to the team as backups. Leon Washington also got a Pro Bowl nod as a kick returner.

Of course the Seahawks, like every other playoff bound team, hope to have nobody play in the Pro Bowl now that it is contested a week before the Super Bowl, making players on the NFC and AFC championship teams ineligible for the game. But if the Seahawks don’t end up in New Orleans, they could end up with one of their best Pro Bowl showings in team history.

In addition to the five players named to the NFC team, the Seahawks also had eight players named Pro Bowl alternates. Cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive end Chris Clemons and fullback Michael Robinson were named first alternates; safety Kam Chancellor, punter Jon Ryan and special teamer Heath Farwell were named second alternates; quarterback Russell Wilson was named a third alternate and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane was named a fourth alternate.

Last season, only Thomas was initially named to the Pro Bowl roster, but four more players — Chancellor, Robinson, Lynch and Brandon Browner — ended up in Hawaii because of injuries to others and players headed to the Super Bowl.

“It’s a big turnaround for us from a couple of years ago when we couldn’t get anybody there,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said prior to the announcement of the teams when asked who on his team might be Pro Bowl worthy.

Okung and Unger making the Pro Bowl team as starters is one indicator of just how far Seattle’s offense has come since early in the season, when it was one of the least productive in the league. The improved play of Wilson has received a lot of attention, and rightly so, but the play up front also has been a big reason why Seattle’s offense is now up to No. 8 in the NFL in scoring.

“Any time you’re having success as a team, that’s when those individual honors come,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “But it’s great for those guys — for Russell and Max. There’s a lot of hard work that goes on up there and energy that they expend each and every week. Those guys aren’t ever awarded and a lot of people don’t even know their names most of the time, or the work that they do. They really deserve it; they’ve worked hard.”

Yet, as good of sign as it is for Seattle’s offense to have at least three Pro Bowl players, it is equally puzzling that a defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed and No. 4 in yards allowed had just one player named — as a backup.

No snub is more notable than that of Sherman, who is tied for first in the league in passes defensed, second in interceptions and is considered by many to be the top shutdown corner in the league with Darrelle Revis out with a knee injury. Despite sterling credentials, Sherman was not deemed one of the top three corners in the NFC by Pro Bowl voters, and his inclusion as an alternate shows he was eligible for selection because the league has not yet ruled on the appeal of his suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances.

It is, of course, possible that voters decided to penalize Sherman for that failed drug test despite not knowing the outcome of the appeal. Before the Pro Bowl teams were announced, Sherman was asked if he would be upset about missing the Pro Bowl should he lose his appeal.

“I don’t worry about that,” he said. ‘It don’t mean nothing. I bet you I’ll be on first-team All Pro. That means a lot more to me.”

The All Pro team, which is decided by media vote, does not automatically exclude a player for a suspension, though individual voters could certainly make that decision on their own.

After the Pro Bowl selections were announced, Sherman took to Twitter with a bit of sarcasm, writing, “Don’t be Mad 12s I obviously didn’t play well enough to make it. All good”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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