On the cusp of an AFC North division title with a win in their regular-season finale against Cincinnati, the Ravens have been recognized for their success as seven players were named to the AFC Pro Bowl team on Tuesday.
Linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, running back Ray Rice, and fullback Vonta Leach were all named starters while guard Marshal Yanda, a first-time selection, will serve as a backup for the AFC squad.
Despite missing four games with a turf toe injury, the 16-year veteran Lewis was named to his 13th Pro Bowl roster. The inside linebacker has a team-high 88 tackles while adding two sacks and an interception.
Suggs has garnered attention for AP Defensive Player of the Year consideration after collecting 13 sacks to lead the Baltimore defense and the entire AFC. This is the 29-year-old’s fifth Pro Bowl selection in his nine seasons in the league. Suggs is the Ravens’ all-time leader in sacks (81 1/2) and has produced three three-sack performances this season.
“First off, I definitely want to give a tremendous amount of credit to my coaches, especially [defensive line coach] Clarence Brooks and [outside linebackers coach] Ted Monachino,” Suggs said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I felt like a kid when I got the call; I was excited and honored. This wouldn’t be possible without my teammates.”
Reed was named to his eighth Pro Bowl team in 10 seasons despite a quiet year in which he’s grabbed three interceptions, two of them coming in the Ravens’ season-opening win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11.
Ngata was named to his third straight Pro Bowl after posting 61 tackles and five sacks this season. The 330-pound defensive lineman also recorded his first career touchdown with a 28-yard fumble recovery against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3. His play on the defensive line has led the Baltimore defense to have the second-ranked run defense (91.8 yards per game) in the NFL.
“It is a privilege and honor to be considered one of the best at your position among your peers, coaches and fans,” Ngata said. “When I found out, I felt the same way I did the first time I made it. I know that this wouldn’t be possible without my teammates.”
Needing only 131 yards from scrimmage in the season finale to reach the 2,000-yard mark for the season, Rice was named to his second Pro Bowl. His 1,173 rushing yards rank third in the AFC, and Rice’s 696 receiving yards lead all running backs.
The man blocking for Rice all season will also lead the running back’s way to Honolulu as Leach was named to his second straight Pro Bowl. In his first year with the Ravens, Leach has delivered punishing blocks to clear paths for Rice and has also carried the ball a career-high 11 times for 34 yards while adding 12 receptions for 51 yards.
“With changing teams, the lockout and trying to learn a new playbook, I am so proud and happy to be going with my backfield mate,” Leach said. “This is a great thing and something to celebrate. But, that will have to wait until after the season.”
Rounding out the list of Pro Bowl selections is Yanda, who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl of his five-year career. Yanda has not committed an offensive penalty all season long and has graded out with a “winning performance or better” in every game, according to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
“I am ecstatic, that is really the only thing I can say,” Yanda said. “This is such a great honor, something that I never really expected. When I made it to the NFL, I was so happy to be on a team and playing in the league, and now, to be a part of a Pro Bowl team is something very special. You don’t get there alone; you have to be on a good team and playing well as a unit. I am thankful for my teammates and coaches who helped me get to where I am.”
The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 29 in Hawaii, but the Ravens named to the team envision themselves being ineligible to play due to a much bigger game they hope to be involved in the following week.
“To be clear, I have no intentions of playing in the Pro Bowl,” Suggs said. “I plan on being in practice with my teammates that week, getting ready for the Super Bowl.”
Guard Ben Grubbs was named a first alternate to the Pro Bowl squad while special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo was designated a second alternate. Quarterback Joe Flacco and safety Bernard Pollard were deemed third alternates while offensive tackle Michael Oher was labeled a fourth alternate.
Ayanbadejo led all special teams players in the fan vote while Oher received the most fan votes among offensive tackles.