FOXBOROUGH — The NFL announced the 2013 Pro Bowl selections Friday night, and the Patriots have four players among the 85 named to the team: quarterback Tom Brady, guard Logan Mankins, cornerback Aqib Talib and special teamer Matthew Slater.
This is the fifth consecutive time Brady has been selected, and his ninth overall, tying Hall of Fame guard John Hannah for most in franchise history. Despite numerous changes among the Patriots’ offensive skill players from 2012, Brady has led New England to its 11th division title in the last 13 years, and has 4,221 passing yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
This is also the fifth consecutive Pro Bowl nod for Mankins, and his sixth overall. The veteran has flashed his versatility in recent weeks, sliding from his customary left guard spot to left tackle last Sunday in place of injured Nate Solder.
Slater earned his third straight selection. Despite missing four games with a broken thumb and constantly drawing double-teams, he is second on the Patriots in special-teams tackles with 13.
This is the first selection for Talib, who has been hampered for several weeks with a hip injury. He was outstanding the first third of the season and has been returning to form in recent weeks as he continues to recover. He has four interceptions, and under Under the terms of his contract, the Pro Bowl honor earned him a $500,000 bonus.
Safety Devin McCourty, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punt returner Julian Edelman have been among the best at their respective positions, but they were not selected, though they could be named as reserves.
Pro Bowlers are chosen by fans, players and league coaches, with the vote of each group counting for one-third of the total.
Rather than have players split by conference, this year the NFL will hold a Pro Bowl “draft” on Jan. 22, with Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders serving as team captains. They will select the players for their respective squads.
The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. That is the Sunday prior to the Super Bowl. Pro Bowlers playing in the Super Bowl will not take part in the Pro Bowl game.
Lewis will start at QB
The Bills said Thad Lewis will start at quarterback after ruling rookie E.J. Manuel (knee) as doubtful for Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium.
Talib said Lewis gives the Bills a slightly different look because of what he is capable of doing.
“I know he’s been playing good and I know he throws the ball down the field,’’ said Talib. “They get a lot of explosive plays while he’s in the game because he’s not scared to throw the ball down the field. He can run it a little bit; he’s a good quarterback.”
Lewis has started four games this season, and Manuel 10. Even though Manuel has more rushing attempts than Lewis (53 to 22), more rushing yards (186 to 48), and a higher per-carry average (3.5 to 2.2), Talib said Lewis is the better runner.
“I think he’s a little more explosive,” Talib said. “He’s more of a runner than E.J. Manuel — [Manuel] will run when he has to, but Lewis looks to run it a little bit more.”
The Bills declared WR Stevie Johnson (death of mother) and S Aaron Williams (ribs) out for Sunday. Five players, including Lewis (left shoulder) and RB Fred Jackson (ribs) are probable.
Wide receiver Josh Boyce is listed as out and McCourty is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Bills.
Boyce suffered an ankle injury Dec. 15 in Miami and has not practiced since. McCourty, who has not practiced all week, suffered a concussion last Sunday against the Ravens.
There are 11 Patriots questionable for the game, all limited in practice: CB Kyle Arrington (groin), CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder), WR Aaron Dobson (foot), LB Dane Fletcher (groin), S Steve Gregory (finger/knee), DE Rob Ninkovich (ankle), Solder (concussion), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), OT Will Svitek (ankle), WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), and RB Shane Vereen (groin).
WR Danny Amendola (groin), Brady (right shoulder), OT Marcus Cannon (ankle), TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee), and Talib (hip) are probable.
During the media-access window for practice on Friday, Ninkovich, who hurt his ankle at practice Thursday, wasn’t spotted. But in the locker room he jokingly asked reporters how they could have missed him, since he’s been at every practice this season.
Asked if he’ll play Sunday, the veteran said, “I’ll be all right. Just keep working here and get ready for Buffalo and get ready to play a hard football game, because they’re a tough team. They’re playing well right now, and I’m sure they’ll want to come in here and affect our playoffs.”
Collie released again
The Patriots released wide receiver Austin Collie on Friday. With cornerback Marquice Cole released on Thursday, the team has two open spots on the 53-man roster. New England also made a switch on the practice squad, releasing running back Cierre Woods and signing running back Sam McGuffie. A 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound undrafted rookie from Rice, McGuffie was with the Raiders in training camp and on the Cardinals’ practice squad earlier this season.
Owner Robert Kraft has invited Worcester Tech High football players and coaches to be on the field pregame and in the stands on Sunday.
Students from the school and Worcester Polytechnic Institute are working on a footbridge in the city’s Elm Park that will be named for Kraft’s late wife Myra, who was a Worcester native.
Kraft visited the school in early November, and during a meeting with the players, he promised that if they won their next game, against Oakmont Regional, he would send them tickets to a game.
Worcester Tech won, 52-20, and last Friday a package arrived with 60 tickets.
“He made a deal with us and he lived up to it and he always does,” coach Jeff Lane told the Worcester Telegram. “This is a great opportunity for our kids. For many of them, it will be the first and last time they get to be inside Gillette Stadium. They are really excited.”
Brady is 21-2 in his career against the Bills, the most wins he has against an opponent, and is 11-0 in home games against Buffalo. In those 11 games, Brady has thrown 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions, a ratio of more than 5 to 1, which is better than his career ratio in all home games (170 TDs, 49 INTs — 3.5 to 1). At Ralph Wilson Stadium, Brady is 10-2 with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions . . . The Patriots’ win in Baltimore put Brady in a tie with Dan Marino for fourth place all-time in victories by a starting quarterback, with 147. A win will move Brady into a tie for third with John Elway . If Brady does it he’ll move into the top three with only 191 starts — Marino had 240 and Elway 230.