Tuesday, November 21, 2017 Elyria 42°


Browns put five players in Pro Bowl


BEREA — Browns tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack are headed back to the NFL Pro Bowl. This time, they’ll have plenty of company from Cleveland.

Cornerback Joe Haden, wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron joined Thomas and Mack in being named to the league’s all-star game Friday, which takes place Jan. 26 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Browns’ five Pro Bowl selections are their most since 2007, when six of their players were chosen for the AFC squad after a 10-6 season.

“Our (4-11) record speaks for itself, but I’m excited because this shows that we’re not far away at all and we’re about to turn the corner,” said Haden, who ranks among the NFL leaders with four interceptions and 20 passes defensed.

“We have players on our team that people around the league believe are among the best at their position. Once we get all the pieces together, we should be really, really good.”

First-time selections Haden and Gordon celebrated their accomplishment together, sitting side-by-side while watching the Pro Bowl selection show on NFL Network.

Next month, however, they could be on opposing teams as this year’s game is unconferenced for the first time. Hall of Fame players Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will draft their 43-player Pro Bowl squads Jan. 22.

“We’ve talked about that, actually, because it seems like a great idea,” said Gordon, who leads the NFL with 1,564 receiving yards and a 19.6-yard per reception average. “Joe and I go against each other in practice, but we never have the actual chance to match up in games.

“More than anything else, though, we’re Browns. The best thing about tonight was watching together and enjoying that camaraderie as teammates and friends.”

Cameron also is making his Pro Bowl debut after becoming the first Cleveland player to catch touchdowns from four different passers in a season. The former USC basketball player has the second-most receptions (75) and receiving yards (848) among NFL tight ends.

Haden (2010), Cameron (’11) and Gordon (’12) were all drafted by former Browns general manager Tom Heckert Jr., while Mack (’09) was chosen by then-Cleveland coach and de facto GM Eric Mangini. Thomas (’07) was selected by former Browns GM and current Senior Bowl executive Phil Savage.

Thomas will be playing in his seventh Pro Bowl in seven NFL seasons, joining Miami’s Richmond Webb as the only offensive linemen to turn the trick in the Super Bowl era. The Wisconsin native also has never missed a snap since being chosen third overall in the 2007 draft.

The only Cleveland players with more Pro Bowl selections than Thomas’ seven are Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown and Hall of Fame tackle/kicker Lou Groza, each of whom appeared in nine games.

Mack was an injury replacement for the 2011 Pro Bowl and wound up scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game. The free-agent-to-be and Thomas are the first pair of Browns offensive linemen to play in multiple Pro Bowls together since Gene Hickerson and Dick Schafrath in 1966-69.

“I’m pretty fired up and really excited because this is a great honor,” two-time honoree Mack said. “Offensively, we’ve had a pretty good season, but unfortunately, we haven’t had quite the success that we want as a team. But it is coming.”

Cleveland could add a sixth Pro Bowl honoree in T.J. Ward, who is an alternate at strong safety.

If Kansas City’s Eric Berry, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor or Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu withdraw from participating — or their teams qualify for the Super Bowl — Ward would earn his first nod.

The Pro Bowl invitees were selected in equally-weighted voting by coaches, players and fans. Coaches and players cast their ballots earlier this week, while the two-month fan voting period ended Thursday.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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