Peyton Manning has been through a lot over the past 18 months, including three neck surgeries and a departure from the only team he has played for professionally.
Manning took another step in the second-stage of his NFL career on Thursday, as the NFL announced that the quarterback was the top vote-getter from fans on NFL.com for the Pro Bowl. Balloting closed on Dec. 17 and left Manning with 993,045 votes to finish ahead of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (908,099) and Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (829,591).
The rest of the top players included Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (828,225); and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (777,827), while the rest of the top 10 was Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (683,943); Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (676,607); Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (646,273); New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (578,753); and Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (564,751). Official numbers of the votes are from NFL.com.
The rest of the Pro Bowl teams will be announced later this month, while the game will be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu on Jan. 27, 2013. "The announcement of the 2013 Pro Bowl teams, including starters, will be made on Wednesday, Dec. 26, in prime time (7:00 p.m. ET) on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access Pro Bowl Selection Show," according to NFL.com.
Manning has already completed the long road from recovery of his multiple neck surgeries and has cemented his status once again as one of the top quarterbacks in football. He has made 11 Pro Bowls in his career.
This season he had led the Broncos to the AFC West division title and has thrown for 4,016 yards and 31 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions. With two games left in the season Manning has a chance to eclipse his career-high of 4,700 yards from 2010.
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt received the most votes of any defensive player and is tied with San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith for the league lead in sacks with 19.5. He has been a dominant force this year, leading all linemen in blocked passes. Watt had 3.0 sacks on Sunday against the Colts and has notched 9.0 sacks in the past five games.
The Baltimore Ravens had three defensive players lead their position in votes, including strong safety Bernard Pollard, free safety Ed Reed and defensive Tackle Haloti Ngata. The team also had offensive tackle Michael Oher, fullback Vonta Leach and kick returner Jacoby Jones make the squad at their positions.
This season Jones has been one of the most electrifying return players in the game, gaining 975 yards on kickoffs and returning one punt got a touchdown. Reed has made four interceptions and 55 tackles this season and also added three fumble recoveries and one touchdown.
In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers dominated the voting, putting 10 players out 19 positions on the squad.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the way, followed by fullback John Kuhn, kick returned Randall Cobb, center Jeff Saturday, linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Charles Woodson.
Cobb has been a breakout player for the Packers as a wide receiver as the team has dealt with injuries to Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings. He made a career-high 77 receptions for 892 yards and seven touchdowns and has returned kickoffs for 964 yards and has one punt return touchdown.
The 49ers had offensive tackle Mike Iupati, kicker David Akers, linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive tackle Justin Smith make the team. The defense has been stellar all season, ranking third in the league in rushing and fifth in passing yards. Willis has 110 tackles and one interception this season, while Smith has 3.0 sacks and 66 tackles.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski made the team despite missing time with the Patriots with a forearm injury. This year he had made 53 receptions for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns, including seven scores in the past four games he played in. Cincinnati wideout AJ Green was the top vote-getter among wide receivers after making 85 catches for 1,208 yards and 11 touchdowns n his second season in the NFL.
Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III was the top vote-getter among first-year players and has made an immediate impact on the league. He has thrown for 2,902 yards and 18 touchdowns with just four interceptions while completing over 66 percent of his passes.
Last year Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was critical of the Pro Bowl last year after players were barely trying in the game.
"I just felt like the intensity level was higher (in 2009)," Rodgers told the Green Bay Press Gazette. "You didn't see a ton of big hits or anything, but you didn't see some of the efforts or lack of effort we saw last season. On the flip side, I understand. Drew (Brees of the New Orleans Saints) was playing without a contract, and some of these guys didn't want to be out there. I understand that. But if that's the case, then maybe we shouldn't have a game at that point."
The NFL has considered eliminating the game, but said that it would depend no input from the players and the NFLPA before making any decisions.
According to ESPN.com, "The NFL is the only one of the four major American professional sports leagues to determine its All-Star teams by combining fans', players' and coaches' votes."
|NFL's top 10 Pro Bowl vote-getters|
|QB||Robert Griffin III||Redskins||683,943|