The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 1:00 am

Worst-to-first Bears place 5 in Pro Bowl

Colts have 2, but Luck not one of them

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When Akiem Hicks learned he was left out of the Pro Bowl last season, he equated it to a kid finding out he would get no presents on Christmas.

This year, however, it's loaded underneath the Bears' tree. And there is a big package with Hicks' name on it.

The seventh-year defensive lineman was one of five Bears named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster Tuesday, a reward for the NFC North division champions after their worst-to-first turnaround.

Cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and Swiss army knife running back Tarik Cohen also were named to the NFL's annual all-star game. Cohen was included as a return specialist for the Jan. 27 game in Orlando, Fla.

Consider it a flood that ends a drought.

The Bears haven't been this well-represented in the Pro Bowl since they had five players after the 2013 season. They haven't had five named to the initial roster since the 2012 season. And these are their first defensive selections since cornerback Tim Jennings after the '13 season.

The Bears had gone three straight seasons without having anyone voted to the initial roster. They didn't even have any alternates last season, which was the first time they were shut out since the 1998 season.

The Bears announced seven players are alternates: quarterback Mitch Trubisky, tight end Trey Burton, center Cody Whitehair, left tackle Charles Leno, linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith and linebacker Leonard Floyd.

The Los Angeles Chargers placed seven players in the Pro Bowl, including safety Derwin James, one of six rookies across the league to make the game.

James will be joined on the AFC squad by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receiver Keenan Allen, running back Melvin Gordon, defensive end Melvin Ingram, center Mike Pouncey and special-teamer Adrian Phillips. James and Phillips are the only starters, though.

Rivers is a backup to Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, one of 29 first-time Pro Bowlers. That, of course, includes all the rookies: James, Giants running back Saquon Barkley, Seahawks punter Michael Dickson, Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay, Indianapolis guard Quenton Nelson and Cleveland cornerback Denzel Wads.

New England's Tom Brady is the other AFC quarterback, making it for the 14th time. Missing is the Colts' Andrew Luck. Indianapolis tight end Eric Ebron did make the team, however.

New Orleans, led by quarterback Drew Brees, Dallas and Chicago paced the NFC with five players each. Brees is the starter, backed up by Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and the Rams' Jared Goff.

Buffalo, Oakland and Tampa Bay had no selections.

Pittsburgh and Kansas City each had six players chosen, including such first-timers as Steelers running back James Conner and Mahomes.

Cleveland has a first overall draft choice in the game – not Baker Mayfield, but 2017 top pick Myles Garrett at defensive end.

Among the perennial AFC choices returning to the game are Houston DE J.J. Watt, Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown, Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda and safety Eric Weddle, Cincinnati DT Geno Atkins and Denver LB Von Miller.

For the NFC, frequent repeaters include Atlanta WR Julio Jones and C Alex Mack, Dallas tackle Tyron Smith, inside LBs Luke Kuechly of Carolina and Bobby Wagner of Seattle, Arizona CB Patrick Peterson, Rams DT Aaron Donald and Mack.

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