DE Simeon Rice had at least 15 sacks for the second straight season
Two of the 11 starters for the NFC in the 2004 Pro Bowl will be Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The starting lineups for the upcoming Pro Bowl were announced during halftime of the Wild Card playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens. That's when linebacker Derrick Brooks and defensive end Simeon Rice learned they would open the NFL's all-star game, just as they did a year ago.
The Bucs also have a third, non-starting Pro Bowl participant, defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Though Tampa Bay missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, the defensive accolades came as no surprise. The Buccaneers finished fifth in the league in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed in 2003, marking the seventh straight season Tampa Bay has had a top-10 defensive finish.
Brooks and Rice were two of the team's standouts, as expected, and both were clearly among the league's best at their positions.
For the sixth straight season, Brooks led the Bucs in tackles, recording 151 stops. Brooks also intercepted two passes, forced three fumbles, posted one sack and added nine passes defensed. In a two-week period during the Bucs' ultimately unsuccessful playoff drive, Brooks punished Jacksonville and New Orleans with 28 tackles, three forced fumbles, a sack and a pass defensed.
Rice tied for second in the NFL with 15 sacks, marking the second straight season he has had at least that many QB takedowns. Though sacks are his primary game, Rice made a huge impact across the board for the Buccaneers, adding two interceptions, six forced fumbles, 62 tackles and 10 passes defensed.
No team has more starters on the NFC's Pro Bowl defense than the Buccaneers. Both the Dallas Cowboys (DT La'Roi Glover, S Roy Williams) and the Washington Redskins (CB Champ Bailey, LB LaVar Arrington) have two starters, like Tampa Bay.
Last season, the Bucs had five Pro Bowl starters, as Sapp, fullback Mike Alstott and safety John Lynch joined Brooks and Rice.
The 2004 Pro Bowl will be played on February 8, in Honolulu, Hawaii, as usual. The Bucs' three-person contingent is their smallest since 1996, but the team has still earned 44 Pro Bowl nods over the past seven seasons.
The other starting outside linebacker for the NFC is Washington's LaVar Arrington. The other defensive end is the New York Giants' Michael Strahan. Sapp is the defensive tackle substitute behind starters La'Roi Glover of Dallas and Kris Jenkins of Carolina.
For the NFC's complete Pro Bowl roster of starters and substitutes, please click here.