GREEN BAY – After starting out 4-6, it didn't seem like the Green Bay Packers would have anyone on the NFC Pro Bowl team.
But a four-game winning streak helped them gain some attention and in the annual voting split evenly among players, coaches and fans, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, guard T.J. Lang and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were elected.
"The Pro Bowl is always exciting and you always want to see your players rewarded for their individual seasons, so very proud of the three guys that made it and all the alternates," coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday morning.
Lang and Clinton-Dix have been voted in for the first time in their careers. For Rodgers, this is his sixth selection. McCarthy was particularly happy for Lang, an eight-year veteran he felt had been deserving for years.
"About time," McCarthy said. "I think we all felt that way for T.J. I know the general excitement for T.J. and Ha Ha. I think it says a lot about those two men in our locker room, Aaron’s excitement for those two guys. You like to see guys be rewarded and recognized for their seasons but also just the guys that were also alternates – Jordy, Bakhtiari, Mike Daniels, all those guys. Bryan Bulaga’s having a great year.
"There’s a lot of guys we feel that were worthy of the recognition."
Rodgers moved a step closer to catching quarterback Brett Favre's franchise-record nine selections for a quarterback (1992-93, 1995-97, 2001-03, 2007). Lang has been an alternate the last two years and is the first Packers lineman to be selected since guard Josh Sitton in 2014. Clinton-Dix is the first Packers safety to be selected since Nick Collins in 2010.
"I think if you watch Ha Ha work every day, you have such a greater appreciation for him because he does all the little things, and his leadership is just growing daily," McCarthy said. "He’s a fun to work with, and I would think that his teammates would definitely echo that, and he’s even a lot more fun to compete with on Sundays – or Saturday this week. Ha Ha, I was very happy for him."
None of the three Packers were the top vote-getters at their positions and will be backups. Lang finished behind Dallas' Zach Martin and Washington's Brandon Scherff; Clinton-Dix finished behind Minnesota's Harrison Smith and Rodgers finished behind Matt Ryan.
Pro Bowl votes are collected from coaches, players and fans with each group's totals bearing equal weight in the final totals.
In his news conference Tuesday, Rodgers mentioned just about everyone on the team as being worthy of consideration. He lauded the play of Lang, tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga and said Clinton-Dix, who is tied for the NFC lead in interceptions with five, was a "no-brainer" for selection.
The NFC tackles were Dallas' Tyron Smith, Washington's Trent Williams and Philadelphia's Jason Peters. Bakhtiari was named a first alternate, which means if any of the three is in the Super Bowl or drops out because of injury, he will play for the NFC.
At wide receiver, Jordy Nelson faced tough competition and didn't make it despite ranking first in the NFC in receiving touchdowns (12), fourth in receptions (82) and fifth in yards (1,037). Atlanta’s Julio Jones, the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald were the top four vote-getters.
Nelson wound up a first alternate.
Also chosen as alternates were wide receiver Davante Adams, defensive lineman Mike Daniels and fullback Aaron Ripkowski.
Rodgers ranks fourth in the NFC in passer rating (100.3) behind Atlanta’s Ryan (114.8), Dallas’ Dak Prescott (103.2) and New Orleans’ Drew Brees (103.0). He ranks tied for second in touchdowns (32), ninth in yards per attempt (7.09) and fifth in percentage of passes intercepted. Prescott was the other NFC selection.
Asked about his own chances, Rodgers said: “It's always a good thing to get nominated, but I don't plan on playing in it.”
This year, the NFL will go back to having NFC and AFC teams after mixing the two squads the past two seasons in an attempt to make the game more interesting. The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, at 7 p.m. at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.