P Josh Bidwell, making his first Pro Bowl trip, will have two experienced guides in teammates Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber
Aloha, it is said, has dozens of meanings, from hello to goodbye, from compassion to mercy.
When Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber said it to Josh Bidwell on Wednesday, they added a new definition: "Welcome to the club!"
Brooks, Barber and Bidwell – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' own version of the Killer Bs – have been selected to play in the 2006 Pro Bowl, the NFL's all-star game played every February in Honolulu.
The full AFC and NFC squads for the NFL's all-star game will be announced on ESPN on Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET, but each team is informed earlier in the day of its own selections. The Bucs' three Pro Bowl selections were informed of the honor by Head Coach Jon Gruden after the team's walk-through on Wednesday morning.
The trip to Hawaii has become an annual commitment on Brooks' schedule, and Barber is starting to rack up the South Pacific frequent flyer miles, too. Bidwell, however, will be appearing in his first Pro Bowl. The strong-legged punter will have a very practiced pair of tour guides in his two defensive teammates, who now have a dozen Pro Bowl selections between them.
Brooks, in fact, is among the most decorated all-stars in NFL history. The prototypical outside linebacker, he will be making his ninth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, extending his own team records for consecutive and overall all-star games. Only three linebackers in the history of the league – Junior Seau (12), Mike Singletary (10) and Lawrence Taylor (10) – have been to more Pro Bowls than Brooks, who is now tied with Harry Carson, Jack Lambert and Derrick Thomas.
Barber will play in his second consecutive Pro Bowl and his third in the last five years, having also gotten the nod in 2001 and 2004. His three all-star appearances are the most for a cornerback in Buccaneer history; in fact, they are one more than all other cornerbacks combined, as Donnie Abraham made one trip in 2000 and Wayne Haddix was selected in 1990. Last year, both Barber and his twin brother, New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, were Pro Bowl selections. Given Tiki's league-leading 1,998 yards from scrimmage this season, the brothers are a good bet to be attending luaus together in February.
Bidwell's selection is groundbreaking for the Buccaneers – he is the first punter in franchise history to be selected for the Pro Bowl. Bidwell, who spent five seasons in Green Bay before joining Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2004, is the first special teams player to make the all-star trip for the Buccaneers since kicker Martin Gramatica was chosen in 2000. Bidwell's selection leaves offensive tackle as the only position at which the Bucs have never been represented in the Pro Bowl. He was the leading vote-getter among punters in either conference in the fan balloting, which comprises one-third of the Pro Bowl selection process and was announced on Monday.
The NFL is the only major sports league that selects its all-star squads through a combination of fan, player and coach voting. Fans have several months to cast their ballots during the season, either on-line, through wireless networks or at stadiums during games. Coaches and players sent in their votes last week. A composite ballot for each group is reached, then the three ballots are combined to determine the selections, with the fan vote serving as the tiebreaker.
The Pro Bowl will be played in Honolulu on February 12, one week after Super Bowl XXXIX is held in Detroit.
Brooks, who started his Pro Bowl run in 1997 and was also named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, currently ranks second on the team with 144 tackles. He has also contributed two sacks, five tackles for loss, 14 passes defensed, one interception and one forced fumble, and is one of the primary reasons the Buccaneers are ranked second in the NFL in total defense.
Barber is currently first on the team and tied for fifth in the NFC with five interceptions. He also has 95 tackles, 21 passes defensed, two sacks, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery. Earlier this season, he became the first cornerback in NFL history to reach 20 interceptions and 20 sacks in a career, and he will soon hit triple digits in tackles for the third consecutive season. Barber may have made his Pro Bowl push at the perfect time to impress his NFL colleagues, intercepting four passes in the Bucs' back-to-back December wins over New Orleans and Carolina.
Bidwell currently leads the NFC with a 45.7 yards per punt average, along with 20 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He is on pace to shatter the team record for gross average (43.3 by Tom Tupa in 2003) and has a net average of 37.3 that is threatening Tommy Barnhardt's 1996 Buc record of 37.8. Bidwell has hit at least one punt of 50 or more yards in 13 of the Bucs' first 14 games and has also had a magnificent season as the team's holder on placekicks.
Starters for both the AFC and NFC teams will be announced during the first weekend of the NFL playoffs. Brooks and Barber both started for the NFC last year.