FB Mike Alstott, who has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls, leads the NFC voting again by a wide margin
Mike Alstott is hanging with some pretty good company these days.
The National Football League released an update of the fan balloting for the 2002 Pro Bowl, to be held February 9 in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Alstott is the fourth-leading vote-getter among all players in the league.
In this case, being fourth is pretty remarkable, considering the players ranked one through three are responsible for five of the last seven league MVP awards.
Alstott, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting fullback, had recorded 340,826 votes as December 6, less than 9,000 behind St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner in third place and just over 11,000 behind St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk in second place. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre has a commanding lead in the overall voting, with over 408,000 as of Thursday.
Favre was the league's MVP in 1995 and '96 and the co-MVP in '97 with Detroit running back Barry Sanders. After Denver running back Terrell Davis captured the award in 1998, Warner was the pick in '99 and Faulk won it last year.
Of course, that makes Alstott the leading vote-getter at his position in the NFC, by the most commanding margin of any player at any position in either conference. Following him in second place in the NFC fullback voting is Green Bay's William Henderson, with 42,211 votes, less than one-eighth of Alstott's total.
Should Alstott hold onto the lead at his position – fan balloting will continue on NFL.com for approximately one more month – the size of his lead in votes will not play into the selection process. The consensus ballots of NFL fans, players and coaches each count one-third towards determining the 43-man rosters that will represent the American and National conferences at Aloha Stadium. Players and coaches will vote on Dec. 26-27. In the case of ties, fan voting is used as the tiebreaker.
Here are the league's top 10 vote-getters overall, as of December 6:
Other Buccaneers are also doing well in the fan balloting, including defensive tackle Warren Sapp and strong safety John Lynch, who lead the NFC at their respective positions and are looking to reprise their 2001 roles as Pro Bowl starters.
Additional Tampa Bay players that would make the team if it was based on just the voting to this point – that is, if a player's rank in the voting is within the number of players that would be selected at his position – are wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (third), center Jeff Christy (second), guard Randall McDaniel (third), linebacker Derrick Brooks (third) and cornerback Ronde Barber (third).
In relation to previous seasons' voting, Brooks rank might be the most surprising, as he trails Washington's LaVar Arrington and Chicago's Rosevelt Colvin among NFC outside linebackers. Colvin's lead over Brooks is slim, however, as the Bear 'backer had 60,379 tallies as of Thursday and the Bucs' four-time Pro Bowler had 59,833. Despite struggling for much of the season with a debilitating foot sprain, Brooks leads the Bucs with 118 tackles and has added two interceptions, a forced fumble and seven passes defensed. With the foot showing marked improvement in the past two weeks, Brooks compiled 28 tackles and two passes defensed in the Bucs' back-to-back road wins at St. Louis and Cincinnati.
Following is a chart of all the Bucs who ranked among the top 10 at their position in the NFC, with their rank and the number of players that will be selected at that spot:
|Pos.||Buccaneer||NFC Rank||NFC Selections|
(NOTE: Only the top five players were reported at free safety, fullback, special-teamer, kick returner and kicker.)
Alstott, Brooks and Sapp each have streaks of four consecutive Pro Bowl selections on the line, while Lynch has been chosen for the last two NFC squads plus the 1997 team. McDaniel has played in 12 consecutive Pro Bowls, but only the last one as a Buccaneer. Likewise, Christy joined the Bucs after two consecutive Pro Bowl nods with Minnesota, then made it three in a row last year with Tampa Bay.
Dunn was an all-star pick in '97 and 2000 and Gramatica made his first trip last year. Johnson was a Pro Bowl pick with the New York Jets in 1998 and 1999. Rice made the Pro Bowl in 1999 when Tony Dungy, the NFC's coach for that game, chose him as the squad's 'need player,' which must be a linebacker or defensive end. Moore, Barber and Royals are all looking for their first Pro Bowl nods.
The 26,669,170 votes cast so far is up from 19,010,146 total votes on NFL.com last season and is already the most ever received during Pro Bowl balloting. Voting continues on NFL.com for approximately one more month before announcement of the squads. Voting at 5,200 Blockbuster stores nationwide concluded on December 2 and vote totals are currently being tabulated. Players and coaches will vote on Dec. 26-27.
The NFL is the only professional sports league that combines voting by fans, players and coaches in determining its all-star teams. Fan voting will be used to break any tie. The NFL became the first professional sports league to offer online voting in 1995.