Buffalo Bills defenders Jairus Byrd, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams were voted into the NFL’s Pro Bowl, the league announced Friday night.
It’s the first time since 2009 that the Bills have had any players voted directly into the league’s all-star game. Byrd, Kyle Williams and C.J. Spiller all played in the game last year, but they were added to the roster as injury replacements.
The Pro Bowl honor is the third for Byrd in his five-year career and comes despite the fact he missed the first five games of the season with a foot injury. Byrd has four interceptions in 10 games, tied for 10th in the league.
It’s the third Pro Bowl honor for both Williamses too.
Kyle Williams made the all-star game as an alternate addition to the roster last year and in 2010. Kyle Williams has a career-high 10.5 sacks, which leads all NFL defensive tackles.
Mario Williams’ 13 sacks rank third in the NFL behind only St. Louis’ Robert Quinn (18) and Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis (16.5), both of whom also made the Pro Bowl. Mario Williams made the Pro Bowl as a member of the Houston Texans in 2008 and 2009.
The 2014 Pro Bowl will be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Jan. 26.
For the first time, the Pro Bowl is “unconferenced,” meaning the players will not be split up between the two conferences, the AFC and NFC. The rosters are determined in a vote of fans, players and coaches, with each group counting one third toward the results. The players will be assigned to one of two teams during a Pro Bowl draft selection on Jan. 22.
In all, there were 45 players selected from the AFC and 41 selected from the NFC. The conference format had been in place since 1971. The league scratched it in an effort to boost interest in the all-star game, which has been lagging.
The Bills’ top candidates who did not make the roster were defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and middle linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Alonso, the Bills’ rookie second-round draft pick, stands fourth in the NFL in tackles, behind Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict, Jacksonville’s Paul Posluszny and Carolina’s Luke Kuechly. Burfict and Kuechly made the Pro Bowl.
Dareus, in his third season, ranks fourth among defensive tackles with 7.5 sacks. The other defensive tackles to make the all-star squad besides Kyle Williams were Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy, Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata, Kansas City’s Dontari Poe, San Francisco’s Justin Smith and Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh.
Given their 6-9 record, however, the Bills probably were fortunate to have three players named to the game.
Other Bills, of course, still could earn a trip to Hawaii for the game if they are named as injury replacements or replacement for players on the two teams that make the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl is played the Sunday before the Super Bowl.
Buffalo’s defense ranks eighth in the NFL in yards allowed and 15th in points allowed.
The quarterbacks named to the game were: Denver’s Peyton Manning, New England’s Tom Brady, New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Carolina’s Cam Newton, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Diego’s Philip Rivers.