5 make Pro Bowl

Lewis, Reed, L. McClain among starters


December 17, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

Le'Ron McClain's quest for respect extended beyond the Ravens' locker room and meeting rooms.

After the Ravens' 13-9 loss to AFC North champion Pittsburgh on Sunday, several Steelers players - most notably linebacker LaMarr Woodley - told the Ravens' fullback that he had earned their Pro Bowl votes.

Fantasy became reality yesterday when McClain joined Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Brendon Ayanbadejo as Ravens named to the 2009 Pro Bowl in Hawaii in February.

"That was great," McClain said during a news conference organized after the AFC and NFC rosters were announced. "Throughout the game, guys on the Pittsburgh side were telling me that I really got their respect. And they've got mine, too, because they got my vote, also. It feels great. I just hope I continue climbing up that ladder and don't go back down."

McClain, Lewis, Reed and Ayanbadejo were named starters. Suggs is a reserve.

Lewis, picked to start at inside linebacker for the AFC, earned his 10th Pro Bowl invitation and trails only retired offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden by one for the franchise lead. Lewis leads the team in tackles with 139 and has three sacks and three interceptions.

A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Lewis is nearing the end of the final season of a seven-year, $50 million contract. This is the first time the Ravens and Lewis have not agreed on an extension before the final year of his contract. The Ravens could use the franchise tag to keep Lewis off the free-agent market for at least one more season.

Reed, the starter at free safety, was picked for his fifth appearance in the Pro Bowl, and he leads the defense with five interceptions and three touchdowns, including two on interception returns.

He set an NFL record when he returned an interception 107 yards in the Ravens' 36-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 23. Reed holds the franchise record for career interceptions with 39.

Although Lewis and Reed are well-versed in the details that go into traveling to and enjoying Honolulu, McClain can forgiven for being a bit wide-eyed. A fourth-round selection who was a compensatory pick in the 2007 draft, he leads the team in rushing with 693 yards and eight total touchdowns, including seven on the ground.

"My dream was always just to be the MVP of the Super Bowl one day playing running back," McClain said. "I could have my chance this year. I just remember when Coach [offensive coordinator Cam Cameron] told me I might have the chance to play running back now. [I] took it all in and have just been working hard to get to this point."

Ayanbadejo collected his third consecutive Pro Bowl honor as a starter for special teams, but this is his first with the Ravens since leaving the Chicago Bears as a free agent during the offseason. He is pacing the special teams unit with 26 tackles on kickoffs and punts.

"I think it means a lot of respect because you don't get to play against all those NFC teams, and those guys knew me," Ayanbadejo said of being a Pro Bowl pick in the AFC after making the jump from the NFC. "I'd been playing there for three years. They kind of knew me in the AFC from when I used to be with the [Miami] Dolphins. But it's just a testament to my coaches - Coach [Jerry] Rosburg and Coach [John] Harbaugh and the scheme I've been fortunate to play in for four years now. I just keep trying to elevate my game, and the coaches keep trying to motivate me to get better at things I wasn't as good at."

Suggs, who made the Pro Bowl in 2004 and 2006, was named a backup at outside linebacker to James Harrison of the Steelers and Joey Porter of the Miami Dolphins. The NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year in 2003, Suggs leads the Ravens in sacks with 7 1/2 and ranks second with 90 tackles.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and punter Sam Koch were the Ravens' most notable omissions from the AFC roster. Ngata has 70 tackles and two interceptions for a defense ranked second in the NFL in total yards allowed and third in rushing yards allowed.

Jim Mora, the former Indianapolis Colts coach and an analyst on the NFL Network, said on the network's Pro Bowl selection show that Ngata's absence was the biggest snub.

"You don't run the ball up the middle with him in there," Mora said, adding he would have replaced the Cleveland Browns' Shaun Rogers with Ngata. "You can't block him with one guy. ... It's hard to block him with two guys. This guy's a tremendous player."

Koch ranks fourth in the NFL with a net average of 40.2 yards and 12th with a gross average of 44.8. He has placed 31 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line, second only to the Chicago Bears' Brad Maynard (34).

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