Surprisingly, though, the lineman recognized wasn’t guard Eric Steinbach.
Joe Thomas was named the starting left tackle on the AFC squad, marking his fourth Pro Bowl selection in four professional seasons. He is the first Cleveland player to earn four straight trips to Hawaii since cornerback Frank Minnifield (1987-1990).
“It never gets old,” Thomas said. “It’s such a great honor to represent the Cleveland Browns. It’s such a great week to be out there with the best in the NFL, that’s for sure. I’m really excited.”
Thomas was the lone member of the Browns chosen to play in the Jan. 30 game at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Voting by fans, coaches and players each counted one-third toward determining the AFC and NFC rosters.
Steinbach and kick returner Joshua Cribbs both finished first in the fan balloting, but were bypassed by the other two electorates. Steinbach’s snub was especially disappointing as the eighth-year pro is having arguably his best season, but was relegated to alternate status for the fifth time in his career.
Steinbach, running back Peyton Hillis, and center Alex Mack were all named second alternates, meaning two players with higher vote totals at their positions must withdraw for them to be added to the AFC team.
“You never know how the voting is going to go, it’s always a little crazy,” said Thomas, who became the 19th Cleveland player with four Pro Bowl selections. “There were a number of guys that definitely deserved it, and I was disappointed some of them didn’t make it.
“Alex Mack, Eric Steinbach and Peyton Hillis, I thought definitely should have been in there.”
Cribbs, special teamer Ray “Bubba” Ventrone, and fullback Lawrence Vickers were chosen as third alternates, while rookie cornerback Joe Haden is a fourth alternate.
If no additional Browns wind up playing in the NFL All-Star Game, it will mark the team’s fewest participants since 2007, when it had zero.
“One of the positives of having it (one week before the Super Bowl) is one of those guys who are first or second alternates do have a chance to get called up,” Thomas said. “I hope that happens because being part of the Pro Bowl is one of the highlights of many peoples’ careers.”
Contract Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.