OWINGS MILLS — Despite the Baltimore Ravens’ horrendous season, the losing campaign didn’t affect the Pro Bowl candidacy of safety Ed Reed, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.
The trio were named Tuesday to the NFL’s annual all-star game, and Reed was selected as the lone starter with his fourth trip to Hawaii. Ogden, who was picked as a reserve, is on the AFC squad for the 11th consecutive year.
This is Lewis’ ninth invitation, and he was also named as a reserve.
However, Baltimore (4-10) has nearly as many Pro Bowl selections as it does victories.
The Ravens have lost eight games in a row and fallen into last place in the AFC North, but Reed’s six interceptions are tied for fourth in the league and he returned a punt for a touchdown.
"It is never an easy road to travel when you are losing, but, as a team, we have stuck together and that is what I am most proud of," said Reed, who ranks second on the team with a dozen pass deflections. "To be selected with these other tremendous athletes is an honor. I am really excited.
"This Pro Bowl thing never gets old. This is something I share with my teammates."
Ogden’s inclusion came as something of a surprise as this wasn’t one of his banner seasons. He began the year dealing with a dislocated left big toe, an injury that caused him to miss nearly five entire games.
â€œIt is always great to be recognized, but to be named this year is probably the most special of all of them, because of the season we are having and the fact that I played hurt a lot this year," Ogden said. "Even though I was hurt and not in there as much as I wanted to be, I gave it everything I had. Even after all these years, the validation this honor carries means a lot to me.â€
Lewis was selected as a backup to Houston Texans inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year leads Baltimore with 184 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown.
"It is truly an honor to be selected by your peers, and I am humbled," Lewis said. "This is not an individual award. I consider it a team award. We sacrifice for each other, and that is what we, as a defense, are all about.
"I share this honor with my team, my organization and my city. No matter what stage in life you are in, if you give everything you have in your heart, you will be rewarded.â€
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has recorded a career-low five sacks in the final year of his rookie contract, was named as a first alternate along with special-teams ace Gary Stills. Stills leads Baltimore with 24 special-teams tackles and a forced fumble.
If another player at their position gets hurt, then they could be added to the roster.
Running back Willis McGahee is a second alternate after rushing for 1,197 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished fifth in the balloting among AFC running backs as the San Diego Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson was named the starter with the Indianapolis Colts’ Joseph Addai and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Willie Parker named as the reserves.
Besides Suggs, other Baltimore players who didn’t make the Pro Bowl that were on last year’s team includes: linebacker Bart Scott, who has one sack after leading all NFL inside linebackers a year ago with 9 1/2, cornerback Chris McAlister, who was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury and tight end Todd Heap, who has missed most of the season with a strained hamstring and caught just 23 passes for 239 yards and one touchdown.
The only notable snubs for Baltimore were defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who emerged as a force in his second season with 83 tackles and two sacks, and veteran nose guard Kelly Gregg, who has been credited with 100 tackles and a career-high three sacks.
The Ravens have the second-ranked run defense in the NFL.
Instead of Ngata or Gregg, the interior defensive lineman named were the New England Patriots’ Vince Wilfork, the Tennessee Titans’ Albert Haynesworth with San Diego Chargers nose guard Jamal Williams as the reserve.
Wide receiver Derrick Mason broke his own team record for receptions in a single season with 92 catches, but only generated 917 yards and four touchdowns.
The AFC roster features game-breaking receivers Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne with Braylon Edwards and T.J. Houshmandzadeh backing them up.
NOTE: Cornerback Samari Rolle won the Ed Block Courage award for overcoming epileptic seizures to return to the field. Rolle was sidelined for several games after suffering three seizures and initially sidelined again due to complications with the illness and the medication he was prescribed to treat it.
The 30th annual banquet is set for March 11 in Baltimore.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.