tampabay.com

Three Bucs earn Pro Bowl bid

Derrick Brooks will head to Hawaii for the ninth time, Ronde Barber the third and Josh Bidwell the first.

By JOANNE KORTH
Published December 22, 2005


TAMPA - When Derrick Brooks was a rookie linebacker in 1995, he admired Junior Seau as the standard-bearer for the position. Ten years later, Brooks is on Seau's heels.

Nine Pro Bowls.

And counting.

"It's very humbling," Brooks said.

Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber and punter Josh Bidwell were voted to the 2006 Pro Bowl, to be played Feb.12 in Honolulu, the league announced Wednesday.

It is Barber's third selection, Bidwell's first.

Starters will be announced Jan.7. Brooks, who has made the Pro Bowl every season since 1997, extended his team records for consecutive and most Pro Bowls. His ninth selection ties for fourth among linebackers with Harry Carson, Jack Lambert and Derrick Thomas.

Seau has the most at the position, 12.

"The things he did for this position are very respected," Brooks, 32, said. "I guess the Lord has put me now in that position to set the standard for the position. It's a challenge every year. I look forward to doing the best I can to uphold it."

Five Tampa Bay players were named alternates: fullback Mike Alstott, receiver Joey Galloway, defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, defensive end Simeon Rice and running back Cadillac Williams.

Brooks and Barber continue a Tampa Bay streak dating to 1997 of at least two defensive players named to the Pro Bowl.

"We're representative of this team and how good this defense has been over the years," said Barber, 30, whose three Pro Bowls are the most by a Bucs cornerback.

Barber, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2001 and last season, leads the team and is tied for fifth in the NFC with five interceptions. Earlier this season, he became the first NFL cornerback with 20 interceptions and 20 sacks. He will be joined in Honolulu for the second time by twin brother Tiki, a Giants running back.

Brooks is second on the team with 144 tackles and has two sacks, five tackles for loss, one interception and one forced fumble. He has played through hamstring and shoulder stinger injuries.

"A lot of people were starting to doubt him," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "They were starting to think maybe his skills and his play were diminishing. But really, he was just a little banged up."

Bidwell leads the NFC with a 45.7-yard average and has 20 punts downed inside the 20. "This year, I believe, I'm the best punter in the league, and hopefully, that will continue," said Bidwell, 29, in his sixth season, second with the Bucs. "My goal is to be the best from here on out through the rest of my career."

Bidwell, who credited long snapper Dave Moore and the protection team, is having a memorable December. His wife, Bethany, is expected to give birth to the couple's first child within the week.

"I go through every day just thankful to be alive," Bidwell, a testicular cancer survivor who missed his rookie season with Green Bay after being diagnosed in the preseason. "I didn't know if I would lead a normal life, let alone be in the NFL. Something like this is just storybook for me. I'm so grateful for it."

Perhaps the most striking omission among Bucs was Galloway, 34, who has his first 1,000-yard season since 1998. He ranks fourth in the NFC with 1,114 yards and leads the Bucs with eight touchdowns. Carolina's Steve Smith, Washington's Santana Moss, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and St. Louis' Torry Holt were chosen. "He's carried our team in a lot of moments this year," quarterback Chris Simms said. "That's the way it is in this league. Sometimes, the guys who talk more and do a touchdown dance get a little more attention."

Players, coaches and fans vote with each counting for one-third of the overall total. Brooks and Barber expressed dismay for linebacker Shelton Quarles and cornerback Brian Kelly, respectively. Kelly typically defends opponents' top receivers, and Quarles leads the team in tackles. "This is probably one of the toughest years for me in terms of making it because I could name five or six guys who I know had deserving years to be in the Pro Bowl," Brooks said. "Hopefully, we can go out there and win a bigger championship that will erase this."