The Buffalo Bills' status as a small-market franchise with limited national recognition was reaffirmed Tuesday with the announcement of the NFL's Pro Bowl teams.
For the second straight year, no Bills were selected. It's just the sixth time in franchise history the team hasn't had a player voted into the league's annual all-star game.
Before the 2010 season, it had been 24 years since a Bill wasn't named to the squad. The only other times in franchise history came in 1985 and '86, 1970 and the inaugural season of 1960.
It's not surprising the Bills were shut out. After running back Fred Jackson was placed on injured reserve after a Week 11 loss to Miami, he became ineligible for the team. Jackson would have been a shoo-in for the squad if he had not gotten hurt, as he was second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,376) through 10 games.
Bills center Eric Wood also could have made a strong case for the team, but he too was lost to a season-ending injury during a Week 10 loss in Dallas. Players placed on injured reserve during the season become ineligible for the Pro Bowl.
The biggest snub for the Bills would be guard Andy Levitre. The third-year pro has started all 47 games of his career, and proved his versatility this season by starting at left tackle and center because of injuries. The Bills' line has given up 21 sacks, tied for fewest in the league with Tennessee, and has paved the way for a rushing attack that ranks 11th in the NFL (121 yards per game).
Other Bills who could have made a case include receiver Stevie Johnson, safeties George Wilson and Jairus Byrd and linebacker Nick Barnett.
Johnson ranks fourth among receivers in the AFC with 72 catches, but his yardage total of 964 is just eighth and his yards per catch (13.4) isn't particularly strong.
Wilson's case would have been stronger if it weren't for a neck injury that cost him three games. As it is, he's made 96 tackles, tied for fourth among AFC defensive backs, and has four interceptions, also tied for fourth in the conference. Byrd, who was the last member of the team to be voted to the Pro Bowl after his rookie season in 2009, has made 95 tackles, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Barnett leads the Bills and is fifth in the AFC with 119 tackles. He also has three sacks and two interceptions.
No Bills being selected Tuesday doesn't necessarily mean the team won't have representation in Honolulu. Several selected players every year opt out for injuries or personal reasons, opening spots. Last season, Bills nose tackle Kyle Williams played in the game as an injury replacement for the Raiders' Richard Seymour.
The NFL does not announce Pro Bowl alternates.
Buffalo's opponent in Sunday's season finale, the New England Patriots, led the AFC with eight players selected, including Amherst native Rob Gronkowski, a tight end.
Gronkowski will be joined in the AFC starting lineup by Patriots teammates quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Wes Welker, guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, defensive end Andre Carter, nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Special teamer Matthew Slater is the Pats' other selection.
The NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers tied New England with eight players chosen. Former Bills tackle Jason Peters, now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, was selected to his fifth straight game.
Buffalo native Corey Graham, a member of the Chicago Bears, was voted to the game as the NFC's special teams player.
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is the starting NFC quarterback, backed by record-setting Drew Brees of New Orleans.
The Bills were one of four teams, along with Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis, to not have a representative in the game that will be played Jan. 29 -- the week before the Super Bowl -- meaning players on those teams will not participate.
The Bills added some depth to their offensive line Tuesday by promoting mammoth guard Michael Jasper to the 53-man roster from the practice squad. Jasper takes the place of tight end Mike Caussin, who was put on injured reserve with a torn ACL in his right knee.
The Bills like to dress seven offensive linemen on game days and, with the loss of left tackle Demetrius Bell and center Kraig Urbik last week, were down to just six healthy bodies.
At 6-foot-4, 383 pounds, Jasper is one of the biggest players in team history. The rookie was a seventh-round draft pick out of Bethel College (Tenn.) who spent training camp on the defensive line, but shifted over to offense at the start of the season.
The Bills signed wide receiver David Gilreath and offensive lineman Jake Vermiglio to the practice squad Tuesday. Gilreath, is a 5-11, 169-pounder out of Wisconsin who has spent time this year on the practice squads of Indianapolis and St. Louis.
Vermiglio, 6-5, 325, has spent a portion of this season on the Green Bay practice squad. He's from North Carolina State.