Think players don’t care about the Pro Bowl anymore? Each of the four Dolphins named to the game Friday night — the most Dolphins on the original Pro Bowl roster since 2003 — felt some emotion over the selection.
Cornerback Brent Grimes, a Pro Bowl selection in 2010, reflected on coming back from losing all but one game of his 2012 season to an Achilles tendon injury.
Defensive end Cameron Wake has fought injuries this season to reach his third Pro Bowl in four years. Punter Brandon Fields didn’t make it last season after leading the AFC in punting.
Center Mike Pouncey, the leader of an offensive line that has been heavily criticized, also has been connected to two of the NFL’s bigger off-the-field controversies: the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito bullying/not-bullying investigation and criminal investigations of former Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez, now up on murder charges.
“When I first found out I was selected, I wanted to text the other offensive linemen, ‘We made the Pro Bowl,’ ” Pouncey said on a conference call with all four players and South Florida media.
Pouncey’s twin brother, Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey, has made the Pro Bowl the previous three years. Mike said Maurkice was crying so much he could barely make out how proud his brother was of him.
Asked if the all-star exhibition game was still important to players, Fields said, "Hell, yeah."
Pouncey said, "It’s my first time playing in it. I’m playing as hard as I can. They’ll have to slow me down."
Grimes said, "Once the receivers are out there, they’re trying to catch touchdowns, the quarterbacks are trying to throw touchdowns, so it gets kind of competitive."
The last time this many Dolphins made the Pro Bowl was in the 2003 season, when linebacker Zach Thomas, cornerback Patrick Surtain, safety Brock Marion and defensive end Adewale Ogunleye all were starters off a 10-6 Dolphins team that missed the playoffs.
Instead of being broken down into conferences, this year’s Pro Bowl teams will be chosen up, schoolyard-style, by Hall of Famers Jer ry Rice and Deion Sanders on Jan. 22.
Health is good
You know it’s December when not just those still alive in fantasy football playoffs look at multiple injury reports.
For example, the Dolphins look relatively healthy for Sunday, with only running back Daniel Thomas listed as questionable with an ankle injury. Everybody else on the report is probable, which means, especially this time of year in this kind of game, they will be playing.
Similarly, the Jets have only cornerback Ellis Lankster (jaw) as questionable.
Perhaps as important for the Dolphins’ playoff future is the Friday bumps, bruises and breaks report from the Baltimore-Cincinnati game. Baltimore cornerback Asa Jackson is doubtful with a thigh injury, but Jackson’s roster-filler. Under questionable, you’ll find starters linebacker Elvis Dumervil (ankle), running back Ray Rice (thigh), wide receiver Torrey Smith (thigh), defensive tackle Arthur Jones (concussion) and offensive guard Gino Gradkowski (knee).
For Cincinnati, cornerback Terence Newman and backup defensive tackle Devon Still are out. Tight end Tyler Eifert is doubtful with a neck injury. Questionable are tight end Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion).
OK, one more time for those of you confused by the seemingly 72 ways Sunday can fall. The Dolphins can get in the playoffs these ways.
• Dolphins win, Baltimore loses or ties in Cincinnati.
• Dolphins win and San Diego beats Kansas City.
• Dolphins tie, Baltimore loses and San Diego loses or ties.
• Dolphins tie, Baltimore ties, San Diego ties.
Note that none of the above scenarios involves a Dolphins loss. If the Dolphins lose and Baltimore wins, Baltimore goes. If the Dolphins lose, Baltimore loses and San Diego wins, San Diego goes. If the Dolphins, Baltimore and San Diego lose and Pittsburgh wins, Pittsburgh goes. in the back door.
If the Dolphins, San Diego and Pittsburgh all lose, Baltimore gets in no matter the result against of the Ravens game in Cincinnati.