Fab Four to play Pro Bowl

Posted Jan 22, 2012

Jermaine Gresham

Updated: 10:45 p.m.

Two weeks before Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton began one of the most remarkable rookie seasons in NFL history, he and wife Jordan got married in time to take a quick honeymoon to St. Lucia.

But it turns out they have another coming just seven months later, courtesy of Tom Brady, Sterling Moore, and the rest of the Patriots that won Sunday’s AFC title game and opened up a spot in next week’s Pro Bowl for Dalton as the first alternate with New England headed to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl in two weeks and the AFC All-Stars ticketed to Hawaii for this Sunday’s Pro Bowl (7 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 5) at Aloha Stadium.

“Oh yeah. I was watching. No question,” Dalton admitted of his interest in the Ravens-Patriots game. “I was pulling for the Patriots. It’s a great thrill to grow up watching the Pro Bowl and then to get a chance to play in it.

“I’ve got a good friend (Malcolm Williams) playing for the Patriots that I played with at TCU so I wanted to see him go to the Super Bowl. And, of course, it’d be nice to go to the Pro Bowl.”




But even though Dalton is a newlywed, he’s the old man of the Bengals Hawaiian contingent at age 24, a redheaded exhibit of why the Bengals think the future is so bright. He heads the list of wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and tight end Jermaine Gresham, all born in that magical Bengals season of 1988.

“Those guys must be young,” Dalton said with a laugh. “It’s nice that four of us are going. It will be a good experience for us. I think it will help us. We’d rather be going to Indianapolis, but I guess this is not a bad place to be. I’ve never been to Hawaii. I’m looking forward to it.”

Dalton may be married to Jordan, but he and Green have been wedded during a season Dalton became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to start at least eight games and throw 20 touchdown passes and Green became the first rookie wide receiver voted to the Pro Bowl in eight years.

Now, fittingly, they are the first rookie wide receiver-quarterback combo from the same team in the history of the Pro Bowl next week in Hawaii.

“It makes sense,” Dalton said. “We’ve been linked together all year. We may as well be linked now.”

Dalton joins perennial Pro Bowlers Philip Rivers of San Diego and Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh at quarterback, but he’s not sure when he’ll get there because as of Sunday night he was still trying to make flight arrangements.

He’s got time. The first practice isn’t until Wednesday and in vintage Dalton fashion there isn’t going to be anything fancy. The traveling party is going to be just two: he and Jordan.

The last time the Bengals had as many as four players in the Pro Bowl was the 2005 season. Five players made it with right tackle Willie Anderson, kicker Shayne Graham, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, cornerback Deltha O'Neal and quarterback Carson Palmer.

With three of them going because of New England's 23-20 win over Baltimore in the AFC title game, at some point next week on the beach the Bengals Pro Bowlers can toast New England's Moore for ripping the ball out of the clutches of Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans in the end zone in Sunday's last minute in Foxboro, Mass.

Atkins, Cincinnati's other first alternate, became the first Bengals defensive lineman to make the game since nose tackle Tim Krumrie played in the game following the 1987 season (Krumrie also made it in '88, but didn't play in the game because of his broken leg from Super Bowl XXIII). With New England’s Vince Wilfork going to Indianapolis with Brady, Atkins was next in line to take the spot next to Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata and Oakland’s Richard Seymour.

Atkins led the Bengals in sacks (7.5) and tied for the NFL lead among interior linemen. He was the first tackle to lead the Bengals in sacks since 1996, when Dan Wilkinson led with 6.5. Atkins, a fourth-rounder out of Georgia, did in 32 games what his father didn't do as a very good safety in 143 games for the Saints and Dolphins and made a Pro Bowl.

"He's going to be there. He feels good. He's happy I did it in my second year," Atkins said Sunday night. "It's my first time to Hawaii and I'm looking forward to that. It's great that four of us are going. It will be a good experience for us."

Another second-year player, Gresham, caught 56 balls for six touchdowns in being named a third alternate. He takes the spot of New England's Rob Gronkowski and goes ahead of Gronkowski's teammate Aaron Hernandez and the injured Owen Daniels of Houston to become the first Bengals tight end to make it since Rodney Holman in 1990.

Last month Green became the first Bengals rookie voted to the AFC team since wide receiver Cris Collinsworth 30 years ago when he broke Collinsworth’s club record with 1,057 yards in becoming the first NFL rookie in five years with 1,000 receiving yards.

Dalton becomes the first rookie quarterback to play in the Pro Bowl since Vince Young in 2006.

Brady, a seven-time Pro Bowler, hasn’t played in Hawaii since the week after he led the Pats to the second of his three Super Bowl rings against Carolina to cap the 2004 season.

Palmer played in the next two and his MVP performance following the 2006 game marked his last Pro Bowl appearance.


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