Brown earned it

The Baltimore Sun

For another year, a handful of Ravens defensive players were rewarded for the team's extraordinary overall performance by being named to the NFL's Pro Bowl. The honor bestowed on Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs was deserved (along with fullback Le'Ron McClain and special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo).

Haloti Ngata? Agreed, he has had a great season, and his time as a Pro Bowl player is coming.

But if a player's Pro Bowl credentials were ever overlooked - especially in terms of overall contribution to his team - it was those of Ravens center Jason Brown.

It is extremely difficult for offensive linemen to attract the notice needed to get the votes to go to Hawaii. O-linemen are often judged as a reflection of another player's stats, as was the case when Dan Marino's sack totals were in the single digits or Eric Dickerson was putting up huge rushing numbers.

The Ravens have no flashy 1,000-yard rusher, although Baltimore ranks No. 6 in the NFL in rushing with nearly 2,000 yards. In sacks allowed, the Ravens are in the middle of the pack, tied for No. 13 with 25 allowed.

But think about that. No marquee runner and yet the team averages more than 140 yards a game. And with a rookie quarterback handling the ball, the Ravens have kept sacks to fewer than two a game.

And remember, this team struggled with injuries on the offensive line. Through it all, Brown has held the unit together at one of the game's most demanding positions - centers call blocking assignments - coordinating with some linemates who were new to the team and others playing unfamiliar positions.

Jason Brown's value to the team, and consequently his Pro Bowl-level performance, might go unnoticed from play to play. But I'll tell you this much, if he had not been there, his absence would have been noticed plenty.

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