Antoine Winfield (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
The Vikings are sending six players – two on offense and four on defense – to the Pro Bowl in two months. Four will be starters, including first-time Pro Bowl selection Antoine Winfield.
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The Vikings’ success on the field has helped translate to success putting players in the Pro Bowl. The team had six players named to the Pro Bowl – running back Adrian Peterson, guard Steve Hutchinson, defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, defensive end Jared Allen and cornerback Antoine Winfield. Peterson, Hutchinson, Kevin Williams and Winfield will be starters.
After being named the 2007 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year, Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player in last year’s Pro Bowl, Peterson will be making a return trip to Hawaii. It’s no surprise, given that he is the league’s leading rusher (1,581 yards) and has nine 100-yard games to his credit this season. In fact, Peterson is a strong candidate for the NFL MVP award if he and the Vikings continue their success through the final two games of the season.
In his eighth NFL season, this is Hutchinson’s sixth time voted to the Pro Bowl and sixth consecutive selection. He is also a five-time All-Pro, a more select honor voted on by the Associated Press. Impressively, Hutchinson has blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his eight NFL season, the latest being Peterson, whom he will block for at the Pro Bowl in two months. And Hutchinson has been part of 53 100-yard games rushing in his increasingly more decorated career.
Kevin Williams was named to his fourth Pro Bowl team, adding to his honors from 2004, 2006 and 2007. Williams was also a first-team All-Pro in those seasons as well. He made the all-rookie team in 2003. Only Alan Page (nine) and John Randle (eight) have more Pro Bowl appearances as Vikings defensive linemen than Williams. Williams has also tied the Vikings record with four career defensive touchdowns and is the only defensive lineman in team history with more than three scores. He is second on the team with 8.5 sacks.
Pat Williams joined Kevin Williams in the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2007, making this his third such honor after not receiving that recognition in his first nine seasons in the league. Pat and Kevin Williams are often credited as much of the reason the Vikings had the league’s No. 1 run defenses in 2006 and 2007, and they just moved back into that first-place ranking after their performance on Sunday against the Cardinals. After suffering a fractured scapula on Sunday, Pat Williams will miss his first start in 62 games.
Jared Allen is making his second appearance at the Pro Bowl and his first since joining the Vikings this offseason. He has 14.5 sacks this season, one behind his 2007 total that led the league, but he still has two games to add to that total. He was also named a first-team All-Pro in 2007. Allen entered the season ranked second in sacks since 2004 with 43. Without Allen this season, the Chiefs have nine sacks – as a team. The Vikings gave up a first-round pick, two third-round picks and swapped sixth-round picks to acquire Allen from the Chiefs.
Winfield is the Vikings’ only first-time winner this year. The cornerback is regarded as one of the toughest pound-for-pound players in the NFL and his improving coverage skills have had many offenses avoiding his side in the passing game this year, limiting his chances to put up big numbers. The Vikings already knew his value, however, as he was selected the team’s defensive MVP last year, as voted on by his teammates. He has also come up big on special teams this year, returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown. He has scored a touchdown for the Vikings in each of the past three seasons (two interceptions, a blocked field goal and a fumble recovery). Besides the blocked field goal he returned for a touchdown, Winfield also had a sack that forced a fumble he picked up and returned for a touchdown this year.
Missing out on the honor this year was center Matt Birk, who was named to the Pro Bowl six other times.
The Pro Bowl will be played on Feb. 8, 2009 in Honolulu, Hawaii.