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Vick makes Pro Bowl; Bucs get 3 alternates

NEW YORK — Michael Vick's comeback now includes a Pro Bowl start.

The Eagles quarterback, who sat out two seasons while serving a federal prison sentence for dogfighting, will start for the NFC in the Jan. 30 Pro Bowl in Honolulu.

Vick made three Pro Bowls with Atlanta before he was suspended by the league and served prison time for running a dogfighting ring. This season he has gone from a seldom-used backup to the NFC's leading passer, the catalyst for Philadelphia's dynamic offense. The Eagles had five players total selected for the Pro Bowl.

No Bucs made the team. Three were named alternates: quarterback Josh Freeman, left tackle Donald Penn and tight end Kellen Winslow. They could play if others at their position become unavailable.

Atlanta, which leads the NFC with a 12-3 record, had the most selections, seven, including quarterback Matt Ryan, receiver Roddy White and defensive end John Abraham.

New England, the AFC leader, had six, led by quarterback Tom Brady, the league's top passer, who will make his sixth trip to the game if he Patriots don't make the Super Bowl.

The Pro Bowl will be played the Sunday before the title game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

Baltimore, Green Bay and Dallas also had five players voted in by players, coaches and fans. Four rookies were chosen, with Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh a starter for the NFC. On the AFC team are Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, a former Gator; Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty and Titans kick returner Marc Mariani.

The teams not represented besides the Bucs are Buffalo, Cincinnati and Seattle.

Union on bargaining: Players association executive committee member Brian Dawkins said he believes owners and players have a sense of urgency to avoid a lockout because they don't want to alienate fans.

"I would think common sense would say at the end of the day, after all the fighting and after all the words are said, we understand who butters our bread," the veteran Broncos safety said. "That's where the urgency comes in at."

Dawkins and fellow union executive committee member Mike Vrabel, a linebacker for the Chiefs, alternated between expressing optimism and frustration with the league's proposals during a conference call about negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The current deal expires March 4. One major sticking point is the league's desire to go from 16 regular-season and four preseason games to 18 and two.

Dawkins and Vrabel said the league hasn't offered enough in return for what they believe will be shorter careers — and therefore less money made — with the longer regular season resulting in more punishment for players' bodies.

"I don't think with good conscience we could say, 'Guys, this is all we could get for you for 18 games. Go out there and strap it up and hope you make it through,' " Vrabel said.

As a potential lockout looms, Vrabel believes fans can relate more to players than owners. "We don't have 32 players who have private jets in the NFL," he said.

49ers: Team president and CEO Jed York interviewed Tony Softli for the vacant general manager position, the Associated Press reported. Softli, a former personnel executive with the Panthers and Rams, is the first known candidate to interview. York has said the GM will hire the successor to Mike Singletary, fired as coach late Sunday after a 25-17 loss at St. Louis eliminated the 49ers from playoff contention, their eighth straight year out of the postseason.

Giants: The team returned to New Jersey on Tuesday morning after being stranded in Wisconsin after Sunday's loss to the Packers. It remained in Appleton, Wis., because its charter plane was not going to be allowed to land at Newark Liberty Airport. Much of New Jersey was buried under 2 feet of snow from Sunday's storm.

Redskins: Quarterback Donovan McNabb said he sees "nothing wrong" with an inflammatory statement in which his agent attacked coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Yet McNabb also tried to distance himself from that statement in his weekly appearance on Washington's ESPN radio station. "He put his thoughts into the whole deal, not Donovan's thoughts," McNabb said of agent Fletcher Smith. McNabb made his most extensive comments since his tit-for-tat with the Shanahans escalated when Smith released the statement Thursday citing tension between McNabb and Kyle Shanahan, the coach's son. It was released a week after Mike Shanahan announced he was benching McNabb in favor of former Gator Rex Grossman for the final three games because the Redskins had been eliminated from the playoffs. McNabb said he has met with Kyle Shanahan and "we're both on the same page." He also repeated his desire to play for the Redskins next season but said "things would obviously have to change. The relationship would have to be better."

Steelers: The team probably won't know until Friday whether safety Troy Polamalu can play in Sunday's final regular-season game at Cleveland. Polamalu hasn't played or practiced for two weeks because of an injured right Achilles' tendon. Coach Mike Tomlin said Polamalu is improving but wouldn't practice today or Thursday.

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

Vick makes Pro Bowl; Bucs get 3 alternates 12/28/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 8:34pm]
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