The Cleveland Browns had five players, cornerback
The Browns have the most players of any team in the AFC North Division this season, and are sending their largest contingent of players to the NFL’s annual all-star game since 2008, when six athletes, Thomas, quarterback Derek Anderson, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, tight end Kellen Winslow II, long-snapper Ryan Pontbriand and kick returner Joshua Cribbs, represented the orange and brown in Hawaii.
“Our record speaks for itself, but at the end of the day, I’m just excited that we have players on our team that are the best at their positions,” Haden said. “We’re not far away, at all. We’ve just got to find a way to get all this talent, and we’re missing a couple pieces, but when we get everybody working together, we should be really, really good.”
Coach Rob Chudzinski added, “I think that that’s important that guys have played their best or had their best seasons. (Because of) the coaches, the work that they’ve put into it, and the players and the work that they’ve put into it, some guys really emerged out of nowhere that were question marks. I think those are all good signs and are indicative of the direction we’re going.”
Thomas, who will make his seventh straight appearance in the Pro Bowl, cited the Kansas City Chiefs as an example of how Pro Bowl invitations can translate into positive momentum heading into the offseason, as well as victories during the following year.
Despite a 2-14 record last season, the Chiefs sent nine players to the Pro Bowl. One year later, the Chiefs are in second place in the AFC West Division at 11-4, and have clinched a Wildcard berth. The Chiefs will finish the 2013 season with at least as good as, if not, a better record than the other three division champions in the AFC.
“It’s special,” Thomas said. “I kind of see what happened with Kansas City last year, where they’d been building talent through the draft, and they finally started to get that recognition, one year before they started putting those wins together. All you’ve got to do is add a piece here and there, and we could be sitting where Kansas City is.”
Cameron concurred with Chudzinski’s opinion on the importance of sending multiple players to the Pro Bowl.
“Individually, it’s awesome for those guys to be in the conversation,” Cameron said. “There’s a quote up there (on the wall) talking about superstars. We don’t have any superstars on the team. It’s a huge team effort. I wouldn’t be good if it wasn’t for Josh, or the line, or the quarterback.
“You could get caught up in thinking you did it all by yourself and all the work you put in definitely helped, but your teammates really make it happen. As a whole, we’re going in the right direction.”
The fact that five Browns got invitations to the Pro Bowl came as no surprise to Mack, who was also selected to play in the 2011 game, where he scored a touchdown for the AFC on a lateral near the end of the game.
“Statistically, our offense is doing pretty (well),” Mack said. “That’s the best we can do, work as hard as you can and put things together. Games are tough. There’s a lot of things that go into winning games. It’s close. We were almost there in the fourth quarter several times. If just a couple things go differently throughout the whole game, it’s a whole different story.”