AP All-Pro Team includes 15 newcomers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A changing of the guard — and tackles and running backs and receivers — saw 15 first-timers make The Associated Press 2008 NFL All-Pro team announced today.
While such standbys as three-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning and six-time All-Pro Ray Lewis made the squad, there was plenty of room for newcomers. Ten of the 14 offensive players and five of the 13 on defense had never been All-Pros.
And there was room for one unanimous selection by a nationwide panel of 50 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL: safety Ed Reed, Lewis' teammate in Baltimore.
"He has a tremendous feel for the game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Reed, who made his third All-Pro squad. "Very, very intelligent player, studies it as well or better than anybody. And he's a highly disciplined player. He plays his position as well as anybody I've ever seen."
Reed certainly did that this year with nine interceptions, and he had two, including one returned for a touchdown, in a wild-card playoff win over Miami last weekend.
Reed was joined in the secondary by Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, making his second All-Pro squad, and two of the newcomers: cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan of Tennessee and Nnamdi Osumagha of Oakland.
"Wow. I don't know if you can put that into words," said Finnegan, a seventh-round draft pick in 2006. "That's a goal guys want to obtain in their years of playing football. That's the best of the best. That's humbling to ever think you could be voted on for that. I didn't look at that as a goal this year."
Asomugha becomes a free agent after the season and will be able to write All-Pro on his resume.
"The timing is good," he said. "I think it's always good to have certain things in your back pocket as far as leverage and negotiating. It was my fourth year the first time I made All-Pro."
Other first-timers on defense were Pittsburgh outside linebacker James Harrison, the AP Defensive Player of the Year; end Justin Tuck of the New York Giants; and inside linebacker Jon Beason of Carolina.
"To get the whole swath in one year, that's great," Harrison said.
The slew of new All-Pros on offense included running backs Michael Turner of Atlanta and Adrian Peterson of Minnesota; fullback Le'Ron McClain of Baltimore; wideouts Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona and Andre Johnson of Houston; tackles Michael Roos of Tennessee and Jordan Gross of Carolina; guard Chris Snee of the Giants; placekicker Stephen Gostkowski of New England; and kick returner Leon Washington of the New York Jets.
"When you think about the Pro Bowl, it's the coaches, players and fans voting and recognizing you to represent your conference," said Washington, who averaged 25.6 yards per kickoff runback, with one touchdown, and 10.4 on punt returns. "But with the AP All-Pro team you're representing the whole league, that's a pretty sweet deal."
Also getting a sweet deal were six repeaters from last year's team: Reed, Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware; defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth of Tennessee and Kevin Williams of Minnesota; defensive end Jared Allen of Minnesota, who was with the Chiefs in 2007; and Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson.
Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez made his fifth All-Pro team. Gonzalez ended his 12th season owning the triple crown of NFL career tight end records: receptions (916), yards receiving (10,940) and TDs (76).
"I wanted to show everybody that I could still play at a high level, that I could still be a leader," said Gonzalez, who certainly did that with 96 catches for 1,058 yards and 10 TDs for a 2-14 team.
Titans center Kevin Mawae was chosen for the third time. Punter Shane Lechler of Oakland made his fourth team.
"It's a very big honor because it combines both AFC and NFC," said Snee, one of the anchors on the NFL's most impressive offensive lines. "There is so much talent at every position, but speaking of guards there is a lot of talent out there. I'm honored."
In all, 16 AFC players and 11 from the NFC were honored this season. The Titans and Vikings led with four players each and Baltimore had three.