2011 NFL Pro Bowl: Joe Thomas A Starter On AFC Pro Bowl Team

Cleveland Browns LT Joe Thomas has been named a starter for the 2011 Pro Bowl, the 4th consecutive year he has made the team.  Thomas has made the Pro Bowl every season since being drafted in 2007.

The AFC East champion New England Patriots will lead the American Football Conference All-Star squad with a conference-best six All-Stars, at the 2011 Pro Bowl, the NFL announced today.  Trailing the Patriots with the most conference All Stars are the Baltimore Ravens with five and the Indianapolis Colts with four. 

The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii one week before Super Bowl XLV in North Texas.  Broadcast live on FOX at 7:00 PM ET, the Pro Bowl will be held prior to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year and serve as the signature kickoff event of Super Bowl week.

The Patriots' six All-Star selections - TOM BRADY, LOGAN MANKINS, JEROD MAYO, DEVIN MC COURTY, BRANDON MERIWEATHER and VINCE WILFORK - are tied for the fourth-most in team history.  The AFC roster has 14 first-time All-Stars, including Houston Texans running back ARIAN FOSTER, who leads the NFL with 1,436 rushing yards.

Leading an elite trio of AFC passers is six-time All-Star Tom Brady, who has been named the game's starter for the first time since the 2008 Pro Bowl.  Brady has guided the Patriots to an NFL-best 13-2 record and leads the league with 34 touchdown passes.  Eleven-time All-Star PEYTON MANNING of Indianapolis was selected to his ninth consecutive Pro Bowl and joins BRETT FAVRE (11) as the only quarterbacks selected to at least 11 AFC-NFC Pro Bowls.  San Diego quarterback PHILIP RIVERS, who is second in the AFC behind Manning (4,436) with 4,397 passing yards, was selected to his third Pro Bowl.

The AFC backfield will be highlighted by first-time starter MAURICE JONES-DREW of the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The two-time All-Star has 1,324 rushing yards and needs 68 yards to surpass his career-best of 1,391 in 2009. 

Rounding out the running back position will be two first-timers in the All-Star game - JAMAAL CHARLES of Kansas City and Arian Foster of Houston.  In his third season, Charles leads the Chiefs No. 1 ranked rushing attack (167.5 yards per game) and is second in the NFL behind Foster in rushing yards (1,380).  An undrafted free agent in 2009, Foster is the NFL's touchdown leader (16 total; 14 rushing, two receiving) and is the first Texans running back ever to be selected to a Pro Bowl.  Fellow Texan VONTA LEACH, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl, will be the AFC's representative at fullback. 

Houston's ANDRE JOHNSON has been chosen as one of four receivers on the AFC team.  Johnson will make his fifth Pro Bowl appearance.  Lined up opposite of Johnson and named a starter for the second consecutive season will be five-time All-Star REGGIE WAYNE of Indianapolis.  Two first-time selections will round out the position - Denver's BRANDON LLOYD, who leads the league with 1,375 receiving yards, and Kansas City's DWAYNE BOWE, who leads the NFL with 15 touchdown receptions.  Bowe is the first Chiefs wide receiver selected to a Pro Bowl since ANDRE RISON in 1998.

Representing the AFC at tight end will be ANTONIO GATES of the Chargers.  Gates has been selected to his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl and leads NFL tight ends with 10 touchdown receptions.  Jacksonville's MARCEDES LEWIS, who is tied for second among tight ends behind Gates with nine touchdown receptions, will make his first Pro Bowl appearance.  Lewis is the first Jaguars tight end to be selected to the league's All-Star game.

Helping pave the way for the AFC up front will be eight-year veteran guard KRIS DIELMAN of San Diego, who has been selected to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl.  Logan Mankins of New England, who will make his third All-Star appearance, will be the other starting guard.  Eleven-year veteran BRIAN WATERS of Kansas City has been selected to his fifth Pro Bowl to complete the position.

NICK MANGOLD, a mainstay along the Jets offensive line, will be the starting center for the second consecutive season and earns his third Pro Bowl nod.  In his rookie season from Florida, Pittsburgh's MAURKICE POUNCEY earns a trip to Hawaii and will be the AFC's lone rookie on the offensive side of the ball. 

Assigned to keep the pocket clean against the talented NFC edge rushers are a group of standout tackles.  Along with Thomas, former No. 1 overall pick (2008) JAKE LONG of Miami has been selected to his third consecutive All-Star game.  New York Jets tackle D'BRICKASHAW FERGUSON will round out the group with his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl.

The key cogs in the middle of the AFC defensive front are starting interior linemen HALOTI NGATA of Baltimore and Vince Wilfork of New England for the second consecutive season.  Ngata has earned his second straight All-Star trip, while Wilfork reaches his third Pro Bowl.  Joining Ngata and Wilfork is six-time All-Star RICHARD SEYMOUR of Oakland.  Seymour is the Raiders' first defensive tackle to be selected to the squad since DARRELL RUSSELL (2000 Pro Bowl).

Indianapolis' pass rushing duo - DWIGHT FREENEY and ROBERT MATHIS - have been selected as starters at defensive end for the second consecutive season.  Freeney reaches his sixth Pro Bowl in nine seasons, and Mathis is a three-time All-Star.  JASON BABIN of Tennessee will make his first All-Star appearance.  Babin is tied for second in the AFC with 12.5 sacks.   

JAMES HARRISON of Pittsburgh, who is the first Steeler to post double-digit sacks in three consecutive seasons, has been selected as a starter at outside linebacker for the fourth consecutive season.  Joining Harrison as a starter at outside linebacker is first-time All-Star CAMERON WAKE of Miami.  In his second NFL season, Wake leads the league with 14 sacks.  Baltimore's TERRELL SUGGS will complete the group by earning his fourth Pro Bowl selection. 

The leaders on defense for the AFC will be middle linebackers RAY LEWIS of Baltimore and Jerod Mayo of New England.  In his 15th NFL season, Lewis is an 11-time All-Star.  Mayo, who leads the Patriots defense with 186 tackles, has earned his first Pro Bowl berth. 

Three of the NFL's elite cover-cornerbacks will represent the AFC in the secondary.  Three-time All-Stars NNAMDI ASOMUGHA of Oakland and DARRELLE REVIS of the New York Jets have been named starters for the second straight year.  Patriots' standout Devin McCourty is the first rookie cornerback selected to the Pro Bowl since CHARLES WOODSON (1999 Pro Bowl with Oakland).

Two of the NFL's most accomplished defensive players will start at safety for the AFC.  Baltimore's ball-hawking free safety ED REED earns his seventh Pro Bowl nod in nine NFL seasons.  Pittsburgh's strong safety TROY POLAMALU, who is a major contributor to the Steelers' defense that is allowing an NFL-low 14.9 points per game this season, earns his sixth AFC All-Star berth.  New England safety Brandon Meriweather joins starting safeties Reed and Polamalu in his second straight Pro Bowl.

The AFC special teams unit is comprised of four players, including three first-time Pro Bowl honorees.  Titans rookie MARC MARIANI joins BILLY "WHITE SHOES" JOHNSON (1976; 1978) DERRICK MASON (2001) and CARL ROACHES (1982) as the only kick returners to be selected to the Pro Bowl in franchise history.  Baltimore kicker BILLY CUNDIFF, who has made 24 of 27 field goals (88.9 percent) this season, will make his All-Star debut.  Jacksonville running back MONTELL OWENS, who leads the Jaguars with 10 special teams tackles, will serve as the AFC's special teamer in his first Pro Bowl.  Completing the special teams group will be Oakland's veteran punter SHANE LECHLER.  The six-time All-Star leads the AFC with a 47.0 average in 2010 and has placed 26 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

The 42-man AFC squad is comprised of 21 offensive and 17 defensive players plus four specialists.  A 43rd "need" player will be chosen by the AFC head coach and must be a long snapper.  The 2011 AFC coaching staff will be from the team with the best record that is eliminated in the AFC Divisional playoffs.

The NFL is the only professional sports league that combines voting by fans, coaches and players in determining its All-Star teams.  The consensus vote of each group counts one-third towards the total.  Each team submits two ballots - those of the coach and the players with no one permitted to vote for a player on his own team.  This year, nearly 100 million fan votes were cast on NFL.com, on wireless phones and on Facebook. 

The American Conference defeated the National Conference 41-34 last season in the Pro Bowl.  The 2011 game is the 41st between the AFC and NFC All-Stars with the all-time series tied 20-20.  Fans can purchase tickets to the 2011 Pro Bowl at www.NFL.com/probowl and www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000.

Under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each player on the winning Pro Bowl team receives $45,000, while each player on the losing squad earns $22,500.

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