When the Associated Press announced its All-Pro Team on Saturday morning, just two players received 50 of a possible 50 votes: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, and Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt. No surprise in either case, as Peterson came just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing yards record, and Watt proved to be nearly unblockable most of the 2012 campaign. Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson finished just short of that unanimous nod with 49 votes, and we'd like to know the name of the writer who believed him unworthy of first-team status. Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller also came close with 48 of 50 votes.
The All-Pro team is harder to make, because the first team encompasses both conferences. Many players consider it to be the higher honor than a Pro Bowl nod, because writers, and not fans, are responsible for the nominations. Richard Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks cornerback who finished the 2012 regular season with eight interceptions, was snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting because of a four-game suspension that was later overturned, spoke about this when the Pro Bowl teams were being decided.
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"It don't mean nothing," Sherman said from his locker in late December. "I bet you I'll be on the first-team All-Pro. That means more to me."
Sherman was right in this case. He made the first-team squad with 37 votes, along with Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who got 37 votes.
The San Francisco 49ers had the most players with first-team status with six -- inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, outside linebacker Aldon Smith, offensive guard Mike Iupati, saftyDashon Goldson, and punter Andy Lee.
''As an organization, we take great pride in the success and recognition of our players,'' 49ers general manager Trent Baalke told the Associated Press. "This type of acknowledgement only comes from hard work and a team-first mentality, which all six of these men exhibit on a daily basis. They play the game the way it was meant to be played, and are very deserving of this honor.''
Defensive lineman Justin Smith certainly should have been a first-teamer, but he'll have to be satisfied with the fact that he received a number of votes at end and tackle, putting him on the second team at both positions.
Sherman's Seahawks were second with four first-team nominations: Sherman, running back Marshawn Lynch, center Max Unger, and safety Earl Thomas. All four players were first-time nominees.
"That is taking individuals and saying they are the best in the NFL at that position and that's what I wanted to be,'' Sherman concluded. "The Pro Bowl is taking three from each side, it's more of a popularity contest. The All-Pro, you're the best at your position. It doesn't matter if you're a fifth-rounder or fourth-rounder or undrafted. If you play the best, you're All-Pro."
First Team All-Pros by position (votes in parentheses)
Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (43)
Running backs: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (50); Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (24)
Fullback: Vonta Leach, Baltimore Ravens (26)
Receivers: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (49); Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears (23)
Tight end: Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons (24)
Tackles: Duane Brown, Houston Texans (27); Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos (19)
Guards: Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers (36); Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints (23)
Center: Max Unger, Seattle Seahawks (16)
Kicker: Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings (42)
Returner: Jacoby Jones, Baltimore Ravens (37.5)
Defensive ends: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans (50); Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins (28)
Defensive Tackles: Geno Atkins (42); Vince Wilfork (27)
Outside linebackers: Von Miller, Denver Broncos (48); Aldon Smith, San Francisco
Inside linebackers: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers (30); NaVorro Bowman (26)
Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks (39); Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears (37)
Safeties: Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (28); Dashon Goldson, San Francisco 49ers (20)
Punter: Andy Lee, San Francisco 49ers (24)
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (4)
Running backs: Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (14); Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (7)
Receivers: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (16.5); Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (8.5)
Tight end: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (19)
Tackles: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns (17); Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers (11)
Guards: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens (17); Logan Mankins, New England Patriots (7)
Center: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers (10)
Returner: David Wilson, New York Giants (3)
Defensive ends: Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers (6); Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears (5)
Defensive tackles: Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers (17); Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions (5); Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens (5)
Outside linebackers: Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings (2); Ahmad Brooks, San Francisco 49ers (1); Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers (1)
Inside linebackers: Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals (20); London Fletcher, Washington Redskins (7)
Cornerbacks: Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos (8); Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears (8)
Safeties: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers (19); Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills (7)
Punter: Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints (18)
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