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Three Chargers earn Pro Bowl honors
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SAN DIEGO – Three Chargers have made the Pro Bowl and three others are alternates, the NFL announced Tuesday.
Free safety Eric Weddle, tight end Antonio Gates and quarterback Philip Rivers all made the AFC Pro Bowl all-star roster. They will represent San Diego on Jan. 29, 2012, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Receiver Vincent Jackson (first alternate), running back Ryan Mathews (second alternate) and center Nick Hardwick (third alternate) were recognized as well.
Weddle is tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions. His 87 tackles also pace the Chargers’ secondary and he’s been the most consistent player on San Diego’s defense this season, earning the highest individual honor of his career.
“It’s pretty amazing and exciting,” Weddle said. “The season we’ve had puts a little damper on it, but I put a lot into it and worked my tail off this offseason to make that next jump and become an elite player in this league. I think I’ve done that. Now it’s all about consistency and continuing a high level of play and help my team win.
“Hopefully there’s many more to come, but I’ll definitely take wins over this any day of the week.”
Weddle made game-clinching interceptions against Kansas City and Miami in back-to-back weeks, helping San Diego to a 4-1 start.
Antonio Gates’ eighth Pro Bowl invite is a testament to his team-first mentality and perseverance. Gates dealt with significant foot issues through parts of the last three seasons, missing three games this year. Despite that, he leads the Chargers in receptions with 59 and has six touchdown catches.
Gates has the second-most Pro Bowl selections in franchise history, behind Junior Seau (12).
This is Rivers’ fourth selection, though he attended and played in the game for the first time earlier in 2011. It hasn’t been the best statistical season for the quarterback, who sports a passer rating of 86.6, his lowest since ’07.
But Rivers still has thrown for 4,314 yards, the second-best total of his career, and accounted for 25 touchdowns. He attempted 170 consecutive passes without an interception during one stretch, a career high and 24 away from the franchise record (Drew Brees; 2004). Rivers garnered enough respect from coaches, players and fans to be included on an AFC squad that also features Tom Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
“It’s always an honor any time you’re selected,” Rivers said. “Obviously the season’s been disappointing from a team standpoint, which is most important. I think it’s always an honor and humbling any time your fellow competitors vote you in. The handful of times I’ve been selected, it’s always an honor.”
Pro Bowl selections are tabulated by equally-weighted votes from fans, coaches and players.
The Chargers (7-8) have produced at least one Pro Bowl starter every season since 2003 and have had at least three Pro Bowl representatives for 10 consecutive years.
Jackson is the AFC’s first alternate at receiver and is likely to be on the roster as a replacement if, say, New England’s Wes Welker or Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace make it to the Super Bowl.
Mathews (second alternate) has put together the finest season by a Chargers running back since ’07, and Nick Hardwick (third alternate) anchored an offensive line that lost two Pro Bowl veterans on its left side.
Kris Dielman’s streak of four consecutive Pro Bowl selections has ended. Dielman suffered a concussion against the New York Jets on Oct. 23 and eventually went on Reserve-Injured. Read