Whether he wants to admit it or not, making the Pro Bowl is something every NFL desires.
"I really don't," insisted WR Wes Welker, who last night was voted to his second straight all-star game. "For me, it's going out and playing hard every single week and doing everything I can to help the team win. Whenever you play like that, these other things take care of themselves."
"If you play good throughout the season, it usually takes care of itself … people will recognize it," Logan Mankinsagreed. The guard has also been named to the Pro Bowl squad for the second time in his career.
"Not too many fans go on the site and vote for linemen, so, a lot of it comes down to the guys you play against and what they see you do, and all the coaches that watch you all year and how they vote …You're pretty excited that your peers recognize you, and the coaches and the fans. It's a great honor. Not everyone gets to go. It's pretty special. Plus, you get a bonus, which is always nice."
"It's an honor to make my second Pro Bowl," nose tackle Vince Wilforktold reporters after practice on Wednesday. "As a football player, that's something that you might not set as a goal, but everybody, in the back of their mind, that's a goal of theirs, even if they don't say it. I'm very grateful to be chosen for my second one.
"Hard work pays off," he added. "And I continue to play hard, no matter what the situation may be."
The situation Wilfork found himself in this season was having to decide whether to hold out for a contract extension or play out the final year of his original six-year deal. He chose the latter and said he has no regrets.
"All year, I've been playing and never thought twice about what I was doing. I'm truly a believer that, if you do the right thing, it'll work itself out. I'm sticking by that. It'll work itself out … whatever happens, happens."
Mankins, who's in a similar situation, was asked if that has weighed on his mind this year.
"Yeah, you think about it," he admitted. "You see other guys signing extensions and you wish you were one of those guys. You'll have to ask the powers that be around here if I'm going to get one or not, because I don't know.
"We've won a lot of games around here and I'd like to keep us together."
The NFL is experimenting this year with hosting the Pro Bowl at the site of this year's Super Bowl, just outside Miami, a week before the championship. Traditionally, the Pro Bowl is played at Hawaii's Aloha Stadium the Sunday following the Super Bowl. So, if New England advances to Super Bowl XLIV, the Patriots' four representatives (QB Tom Bradyalso made the squad) will not actually appear in the all-star game.
"It'd be great to get to play in it, but we know what our ultimate goal is," Welker acknowledged. "If I'm not playing in it, that's fine by me."
Schaub a Brady clone?
Some observers felt that Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub, who's numbers are nearly identical to Brady's, was a surprise omission from the Pro Bowl roster. Schaub will have a chance to make his case in person when he faces the Patriots this weekend, for just the second time in his career (he had a monster game versus New England as an Atlanta Falcon in 2005).
During his conference call with New England media today, Texans head coach Gary Kubiakexplained that he shows Schaub a significant amount of game film of Brady. Kubiak, who backed up Broncos legend John Elwayfor many years before becoming an assistant in Denver, sees similarities between Brady and Schaub, more so than with Elway, who was more of a scrambler than either Brady or Schaub.
"The biggest thing that would jump out to me is that [Elway and Brady are] both at their best when it matters most," said Kubiak.
"To me, when I look back on John, being his roommate and a former player, that's what I saw. Being his coach, that's what I saw. And to me, we've been seeing that from Tom his whole career. Some guys just raise it up a notch and they're at their best at those times, and these two guys have always been that way.
"The thing with Tom is his feet. He plays the game with some of the best feet I've ever seen as far as in the pocket, rhythm, throwing and those types of things. And I think Matt's built a lot like Tom from the standpoint [of being] more of a pocket player. [He] doesn't run around a great deal. So he's somebody that we just try to have him model himself after and do a lot of studying from that standpoint."
Wednesday locker room/practice notes
Brady and WR Randy Mosswere the only Patriots not in attendance at Wednesday's workout, which took place inside the Dana-Farber Field House behind Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots wore helmets, shells, and sweats for the session.
With the New Year's holiday approaching, New England will nonetheless conduct a typical week of preparation. They'll hold Thursday and Friday sessions before their Saturday walkthrough, after which they'll fly to Houston for Sunday's regular season finale.