The San Francisco 49ers had a league high eight players (tied with the Kansas City Chiefs) selected to the 2014 Pro Bowl. The eight players include ILB NaVorro Bowman, ILB Ahmad Brooks, TE Vernon Davis, RB Frank Gore, OG Mike Iupati, DT Justin Smith, OT Joe Staley and ILB Patrick Willis. The team also had six players selected as alternates, including WR Anquan Boldin, OG Alex Boone, P Andy Lee, FS Eric Reid, ST C.J. Spillman and SS Donte Whitner.
The 49ers sent out some details on each of the Pro Bowl selections, as well as their reaction to the selection. It was also interesting to hear their thoughts on the new format. There is only one roster of players, then there will be a "draft" involving Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, among others, selecting players. That means we could conceivably see Patrick Willis on one side attempting to tackle Frank Gore on the other side. Both were asked about that possibility, and the answers were just a little bit awkward. Hopefully this is all a non-issue and the 49ers are playing in the Super Bowl the next week.
Bowman is making his second trip to the Pro Bowl. He leads the team with 183 tackles, while adding a career-high 4.0 sacks, eight tackles for loss, one interception, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and eight passes defensed. A first-team All-Pro selection in 2011 and 2012, Bowman ranks second in the NFL with 412 tackles since 2011, according to game book statistics. Bowman has played in 63 games (48 starts) since being drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
What does it mean to you to be selected to the Pro Bowl?
"It means a lot. Being on such a good team, a lot of guys could have made it. It means a whole lot to me. Like I just mentioned, it's not just four Pro Bowlers on that defense, there's a lot of them and we want to represent them."
Three of the four starting linebackers made the Pro Bowl. What does that mean to you?
"I think that makes defenses great and with those two other guys making it, I congratulate them on doing their job and earning the Pro Bowl vote. It says we all love playing with each other and we definitely take our own responsibility seriously out there on the field."
Would you find it weird to have to tackle RB Frank Gore or cover TE Vernon Davis with the new Pro Bowl format?
"Yeah, that would probably be a weird thing and I might not tackle him. Just let him score and get his yards or whatever. Yeah, that'd be weird because that hasn't happened since training camp."
Brooks was named to his second Pro Bowl after being named to the squad in 2013 as an alternate. This season, Brooks set a career-high with 8.5 sacks while adding 71 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and seven passes defensed. Since being claimed off waivers by the 49ers in 2008, he has played in 76 games (48 starts), including starting every game the past three seasons.
What does it mean to be selected to your second Pro Bowl?
"It feels good, especially to know that you're one of the top players in the NFL. A lot of credit needs to go to our coaches and the guys in this locker room. We are accountable to each other every day and I think that helps bring out the best in all of us. I'm happy to be a part of it."
How excited are you to know that three of the team's four linebackers were selected to the Pro Bowl?
"It means a lot. I think it really shows all the work that we put in during the season and in the offseason as well. It goes back to the way we push each other. I think we help make each other better and it's good to see that people around the league are noticing that."
Davis is returning to Hawaii as a Pro Bowler for the second time in his career and first since 2010. He has recorded 49 receptions for 805 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, becoming the first tight end in NFL history to register at least 12 touchdowns or more in two different seasons. Davis was originally selected sixth overall by the 49ers in the 2006 NFL Draft.
This is your second Pro Bowl selection, what does it mean to be selected by your peers and fans?
"It's an honor. It's a good deal anytime you have multiple guys on the team to contribute to that, [RB] Frank Gore, [LB] Patrick Willis, [LB] NaVorro Bowman. It's a great thing, but it doesn't stop right here. We have to keep on going. We know what we have in front of us. So with that being said, we just have to keep this in the back of our mind because it's only a part of what we're trying to do."
Gore, who has earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance and fifth overall, has rushed for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns on 263 carries (4.2 avg.) this season, to go along with 16 receptions for 141 yards. This season marks Gore's franchise-record seventh 1,000-yard rushing campaign. A Pro Bowler in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2012, Gore has played in 131 games (117 starts) since being drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft out of Miami.
How does it feel to have two of your offensive linemen in G Mike Iupati and LT Joe Staley selected?
"They deserve it. Without them, there is no me."
What are your thoughts on the new Pro Bowl?
"I think that's the way they should have been doing it. Instead of by conference, you pick the top guys out of the league."
What would it be like going against LB Patrick Willis or LB NaVorro Bowman?
"They better not hit me. We are teammates."
How does it feel to get the respect from your peers?
"I appreciate it a whole lot. You do this game to get respect. You play this game to get respect. And I know I try my best every Sunday to get the respect I deserve. I'm happy that they see it. Like I said, it's a blessing, my fifth time getting voted to the Pro Bowl. Especially all the negative talk everybody's been talking about all season about my age. So, like I said, I'm going to keep taking it one year at a time. And God willing every time I get the opportunity to touch the field, I try my best to go 100 percent."
Is it special doing this for the fans in the last season at Candlestick?
"Yeah, it was real, real, real special. Like I said, since 2005 the fans have been great. I love the way they've been with me. And now it's my third year into the playoffs and they've been great. So, I'm happy. It's all for the fans."
Iupati makes his second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl as part of an offensive line that has helped the team rush for 2,118 yards this season (third in the NFL) and 18 rushing touchdowns (tied for second in the NFL). He was originally drafted by the 49ers in the first round (17th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.
What is it like to make the Pro Bowl?
"It's an honor. We just have to do better this year and next year."
What is it like to play next to T Joe Staley?
"It's awesome. We know he's good. But, I felt like our whole line should have made it, our starting five. [G Alex] Boone and [T Anthony Davis] AD are doing a tremendous job. It's an honor, but I would love for them to make it."
What do you like about Frank and his run-game?
"His passion of the game. When he runs, he runs hard. There's no stopping him. You can't stop him."
What is Frank like as a leader on the field?
"He's a tremendous leader on and off the field. Frank Gore is going to be remembered. One of these days, he's going to be a Hall-of-Famer."
Smith earns his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance after making his first trip in 2009. He ranks third on the team with 111 tackles, to go along with 6.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble. He also leads the team with 81 quarterback pressures and 55 quarterback hits. A free agent acquisition by the 49ers in 2008, Smith has played in 204 games (200 starts) since being drafted in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals out of Missouri.
What does it mean to be selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth-straight year?
"It's always an honor to be selected by your peers. It's the greatest one yet."
The team had eight players selected, which is tied for the most in the NFL. What does that say about this coaching staff and your teammates?
"I think it just reflects that in order to have a good team, you've got to have a lot of good players. I think that always goes hand in hand."
Three of the team's four linebackers were selected to the Pro Bowl. What does that say about the guys you've got playing behind you?
"That's why we're a good defense."
Staley, is making his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl as part of an offensive line that has helped the team rush for 2,118 yards this season (third in the NFL) and 18 rushing touchdowns (tied for second in the NFL). He was originally drafted by the 49ers in the first round (28th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.
What's it like to be selected to the Pro Bowl again?
"It's cool. It's weird. I feel like there's other guys that deserved it."
How do you feel about G Mike Iupati being selected as well?
"I'm excited. It's awesome to play next to him. He's a good dude. I'm more bummed about the other dudes on the O-line that aren't getting the recognition that I feel like they deserve. [T] Anthony [Davis] had his best year by far. He completely deserves it. He's played real good."
What's it like blocking for RB Frank Gore?
"Frank's one of the best running backs to play in the NFL. He's a Hall-of-Famer. He makes us look good."
What would it be like to go up against some of your own teammates in the Pro Bowl?
"I hope I don't have to go against [DT] Justin [Smith]. Actually, I hope I do, so that we can have a little handshake deal. I won't make him look bad. He won't make me look bad."
Willis becomes the first 49ers player in franchise history to make it to the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons. He currently ranks second on the team with 138 tackles to go along with 3.0 sacks, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one pass defensed. Willis has started all 105 games in which he has appeared since being drafted by the 49ers in the first round (11th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.
You're the first player in franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of your first seven seasons. What does that mean to you?
"It's truly a blessing. I couldn't do it without my teammates and my coaches. I have the best teammates in the world and I love playing with those guys. Again, I thank God for it and I thank my teammates, the fans who voted for me, the other players who voted for me and the coaches. I just thank everybody who had a part in it."
How excited are you to know three of the team's four starting linebackers all made it to the Pro Bowl?
"Honestly, you always wish everybody could make it. But, we play as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team. When we get awards like this, even though it's an individual honor, it's a credit to our team, a credit to the guys who helped us get there. To have three of the four, that's amazing. The biggest thing now is to go out, as we have all season, and play like Pro Bowlers. Play at an even higher level. The ultimate goal is to play in the Super Bowl so we don't have to go to Hawaii."
What are your thoughts on the new Pro Bowl format and it being unconferenced? You could potentially have to tackle RB Frank Gore.
"That's a little strange, but if I have to, I have to. But, I wouldn't want to go tackle Frank. That's a little strange. There's always rules. There's always something new. You've got to adapt I guess."