By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
9:49 PM EST, December 27, 2013
If the Ravens aren't still playing in late January, second-year kicker Justin Tucker will head to Hawaii for his first Pro Bowl. He’ll likely be joined by a couple of teammates who are familiar with the trip.
Tucker, right guard Marshal Yanda, rush linebacker Terrell Suggs and nose tackle Haloti Ngata were selected to play in the Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, the league announced Friday night. It marks the eighth consecutive year where the Ravens have at least four Pro Bowl selections.
"What an incredible honor it is to be recognized like this by the players, coaches and fans of the NFL,” Tucker said in a statement released by the team. "I am truly blessed to represent such a world-class organization, the Baltimore Ravens, and all of our fans who make up Ravens Nation. I will forever be thankful to the Ravens for giving me a chance to come in and compete for a job after going undrafted last year.”
In the year of the kicker, nobody has been more productive than Tucker who has hit a league-high 35 field goals on 38 attempts, including 6-of-7 from 50 yards or more and three game winners. His 61-yarder in the final minute against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 16 set a franchise record and capped a 6-for-6 game. He’s the third Ravens kicker to make the Pro Bowl, following Matt Stover (2000) and Billy Cundiff (2010).
Suggs was selected to the Pro Bowl for a sixth time, while Ngata has garnered the honor five times and Yanda three. Fullback Vonta Leach, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was named a first alternate for the game behind the Carolina Panthers’ Mike Tolbert and the Oakland Raiders’ Marcel Reece.
“I’ve been blessed with so much, and I’m very thankful to be recognized as one of the NFL’s top players,” Ngata said. “I’m also thankful for my teammates and coaches who have helped me get there.”
The Ravens had six Pro Bowl selections last year, though none of them played because the team was readying for Super Bowl XLVII. They had eight selections in 2011.
This year, Tucker was viewed as the team’s most likely candidate during a season in which the Ravens have struggled to find consistency and need a win Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals and a loss by either the Miami Dolphins or San Diego Chargers to make the playoffs.
Suggs leads the Ravens with 10 sacks and is third with 79 tackles. Ngata has 46 tackles and 1 ½ sacks in 14 games, but he attracts a ton of attention from the opposition in the way of double teams, and he’s an integral part of the Ravens’ ninth-ranked rush defense. Yanda has started every game after having shoulder surgery in the offseason.
The Pro Bowlers were selected in voting by fans, coaches and players. Each group counted for one-third of the vote. No Ravens were among the top vote getters at their respective positive in the fan balloting, which closed Thursday night.
This year’s Pro Bowl format was overhauled in the offseason with league officials hoping that the changes will create more fan interest in the game and prompt players to take it more seriously.
The biggest change was players being selected to the game regardless of their conference affiliation. Instead of the AFC vs. the NFC, NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will draft the two sides on Jan. 22, four days before the game.
There will be no kickoffs in the game, which is why there was no roster spot for a return specialist. The Ravens' Jacoby Jonesmade the team last year. A two-minute warning was also added to the first and third quarters with possession automatically changing after each quarter.
That creates a two-minute drill situation at the end of every quarter. Defenses will also be allowed to play Cover 2 and press coverage after being limited to man coverage in previous years.
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