Sunday, February 10, 2008

AFC attack will have a familiar look

Today's Pro Bowl in Hawaii will be a whole new experience for many players. Not so much for Peyton Manning.

WARMING UP: Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) prepares for his eighth Pro Bowl appearance during a practice session Saturday. - PAUL SAKUMA / Associated Press
4:30 p.m. today, WXIN-59
Not only will this be the eighth NFL all-star game for the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, but just like during the season, he will take snaps from center Jeff Saturday, hand the ball to running back Joseph Addai and throw to receiver Reggie Wayne.
Manning will make his fifth start for the AFC because New England's Tom Brady, the leading vote-getter, decided to skip the game. Saturday is starting for a third consecutive year, while Wayne, who led the NFL in receiving yards, is back for a second straight visit but first as a starter.
Addai, starting because of San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson's knee surgery, and Colts safety Antoine Bethea, a reserve, are two of 38 first-time players on the squads.
A sixth Colt, safety Bob Sanders, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was voted to start the game but won't play due to shoulder surgery. Sixteen other selections also won't play.
While the Pro Bowl is merely for fun, Manning said excusing himself was not an option.
"I think you have an obligation to come," he told the Honolulu Advertiser on Friday. "If you get voted on by the coaches, opponents' coaches, opponents' players and the fans, I think you have an obligation to go. I know the guys over here really enjoy taking a lot of pride being here."
Bethea's first appearance is the result of a domino effect. Sanders' surgery freed up a roster spot for Denver's John Lynch. When Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu also couldn't play due to a knee injury, Bethea, who tied linebacker Gary Brackett with a team-best four interceptions, was the next alternate.
The AFC leads the series 19-18 and Manning has had a hand in his conference winning five of the past seven meetings. He holds Pro Bowl passing records for career attempts (146), completions (84), yards (1,198) and touchdowns (12), and in 2004 he was named MVP after setting single-game records with 22 completions and 342 yards.
Addai didn't have a 100-yard rushing game in the second half of the season but was presumably rewarded because of his all-around ability -- he gained 1,436 combined yards with 15 scores.
The Pro Bowl rushing record, incidentally, belongs to former Colt Marshall Faulk, who ran for 180 yards in 1995.

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