LB Hardy Nickerson is closing in on Lee Roy Selmon's Buccaneer Pro Bowl record
The National Football League announced today that six Tampa Bay Buccaneers – FB Mike Alstott, LB Derrick Brooks, S John Lynch, C Tony Mayberry, LB Hardy Nickerson and DT Warren Sapp – have been selected to the 2000 Pro Bowl, to be held in Honolulu February 6.
Tampa Bay's six players ties St. Louis for most in the National Football Conference. Five Buccaneers (Alstott, Brooks, Lynch, Nickerson and Sapp) were selected as starters, giving Tampa Bay the most starters in the NFC.
Nickerson will be making his fourth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl and his fifth overall. He is now just one behind Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon on the Buccaneers' list of most Pro Bowl invites; Selmon made six consecutive all-star games from 1979 to 1984. Nickerson has 123 tackles through the Bucs' first 14 games, raising his 13-year NFL total to an incredible 1,446 stops. He stands second on the team in that category in 1999 while also adding two interceptions, two forced fumbles, six passes defensed and half a sack. He has now hit triple digits in tackles in seven of his last eight seasons, narrowly missing that mark last year when a bout with pericarditis kept him out of the final six games.
Brooks is one of four Bucs making their third consecutive February trip to Hawaii. Now regarded as one of the NFL's top linebackers, the fifth-year Florida State product is the Bucs' leader with 156 tackles, including 104 solos. Far from just a run-plugger, Brooks has a dizzying array of complementary statistics: four interceptions returned for 61 yards, 16 passes defensed, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week Seven after leading the Bucs to a 6-3 win over Chicago with 13 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed. Brooks has not missed a game since being drafted in the first round in 1995 and is already fourth on the Bucs' all-time tackle list (739), just three behind Selmon (742).
Like Brooks, Sapp will be appearing in his third straight Pro Bowl and making his second consecutive start. With 12.5 sacks, Sapp is another player challenging a Selmon record. Selmon set the Tampa Bay single-season sack record at 13 way back in 1999, but Sapp has two remaining games to finally topple that mark. The fifth-year vet who joined the Bucs in the same 1995 first round that produced Brooks is also stalking the league lead in that category (St. Louis' Kevin Carter, 15.0) and has moved into second place on the Bucs' career list, with 42. Sapp was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month for September.
Lynch concludes the list of four starters from the NFL's third-ranked defense to make the Pro Bowl starting lineup. His invite marks his second trip after missing last year's game but appearing for the first time in 1997. Considered one of the league's most ferocious tacklers, Lynch has also received praise this year for his outstanding cover skills, a combination that has led to 112 tackles, two interceptions, 11 passes defensed, one forced fumble and half a sack.
On offense, FB Mike Alstott is the NFC's leading vote-getter at fullback for the third straight season. He leads the Buccaneers and stands eighth in the NFC with 806 rushing yards and is also the team leader with six touchdowns. In just four seasons, Alstott has already climbed to near the top of the Buccaneers' all-time lists for touchdowns (tied for third with 31) and rushing yards (fifth with 2,694 yards). Alstott's production is clearly an important factor in the Bucs' success, as indicated by the team's amazing 22-4 record in games in which he scores.
Like Alstott, Mayberry is making his third consecutive Pro Bowl venture. He and Alstott now rank just one Pro Bowl behind TE Jimmie Giles, the leader in Pro Bowl trips in team history among offensive players with four. Mayberry, a 10th-year veteran who has started a team-record 143 consecutive games (tied for the third longest active streak in the NFL) anchors an offensive line that has helped the Bucs reach triple digits in rushing in nine of the team's 14 games. Mayberry is the only Buccaneer offensive lineman ever to make the Pro Bowl.
Tampa Bay's six selections represents the second-best showing in club annals. The Buccaneers sent a league-high eight players to the Pro Bowl in 1997 and followed with five selections last year. The Bucs have now had a combined 19 selections in the past three seasons, exactly matching the total of Pro Bowl invites in the team's first 21 years of existence (1976-96).
Buccaneers.com will report again this afternoon on the reaction of the team in the locker room to the announcement of its Pro Bowl players.