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Three Raiders make Pro Bowl

The NFL announced the Pro Bowl teams on Tuesday and three Raiders made the squad: defensive tackle Richard Seymour, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, and punter Shane Lechler. Safety Tyvon Branch, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, running back Darren McFadden and fullback Marcel Reece have all been named Pro Bowl alternates.

This is Seymour’s second trip to the Pro Bowl as a Raider and seventh as a pro. He made it last year as an alternate. The key to his making the last two Pro Bowls was the switch to defensive tackle. Prior to the switch he hadn’t made the Pro Bowl since 2006 as a defensive end in the Patriots’ 3-4 scheme. Seymour has 6.0 sacks and 27 tackles this season. Those aren’t great numbers due to his being limited by injuries. He got this nod on reputation mostly but he earned it last week when he blocked two field goals against the Chiefs that allowed the Raiders to win the game and stay in the playoff hunt.

“It’s definitely a wonderful honor and I’m happy to go with my teammates who made it and I’m definitely super excited for Seabass. It’s been a long time coming for him, very deserving,” Seymour said. “I give my teammates and my coaches a lot of credit, they put me in the right position to make plays. I couldn’t be the player that I am without Tommy Kelly and the guys beside me, so those guys are definitely deserving as well and their time is coming soon.”

The 11-year NFL veteran earned five straight Pro Bowl selections as a member of the New England Patriots from 2002-06. Seymour joined the Raiders via a trade with the Patriots prior to the 2009 season after playing eight seasons in New England. The veteran defender has totaled 54.5 career sacks, including 15.5 sacks as a member of the Raiders, with six in 2011.

This is Janikowski’s first trip to the Pro Bowl after 12 years in the league — a somewhat surprising fact considering some of the previous seasons he has had. He has gotten better and better and in recent seasons he has been among the top two or three in the league in field goal percentage. He has also been the best kicker in the league from beyond 50 yards as well as leading the league in touchbacks. This season he tied the NFL record for longest field goal (63), tied the NFL record with three field goals of 50 yards or more in a single game, and set a new team record with six field goals in one game. Those efforts earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week three times and Player of the Month twice for the months of September and November.

“It feels great. It took me awhile, I mean, only 12 years, but it feels great and it’s a great honor and I’m happy to be there,” Janikowski said. “I’m looking forward to it. I can’t do it without Jon Condo and Shane Lechler and the offensive line. They protected and did a great job and that’s what it takes.”

Janikowski, presently fifth in the AFC in scoring with 115 points, is the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer with 1,257 points and broke the team’s single-season scoring mark with 135 points last season when he was named a Pro Bowl alternate last year. Janikowski tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal just before halftime in the 2011 season opener at Denver. Janikowski’s previous long was a team-record 61-yarder 12/27/09 at Cleveland.

The Pro Bowl is old hat for Shane Lechler. He is a mainstay in Hawaii or wherever the Pro Bowl is played. He is now a seven time Pro Bowler including making the team the past five years straight.

“[The selection is] just as exciting as the first time. As soon as I found out, my wife just went back home to Houston to take the kids to get them ready for school, but I called her and told her and she was excited,” Lechler said. “I’m excited and it never gets old because whenever you get voted in by your peers, I think that’s the ultimate accomplishment. I’m so excited for [Janikowski]. It’s been so overdue for him, probably the best kicker in the league for at least the last five-six years and he’s hitting the ball so good this year and it’s going to be fun just to be able to be out there with him and his wife Laurie and kind of get away from the NFL life and go play an All-Star game.”

Lechler has 932 career punts for 44,331 yards in 12 pro seasons. He trails Raider Legend Ray Guy by 210 yards for the all-time lead in punting yardage in Silver and Black history, with one regular season game to go. His 47.6-yard career punting average is the highest in NFL history for players with at least 250 attempts.

Lechler connected on an 80-yard punt on November 27 to break a 50-year old franchise record of 77 yards by Wayne Crow (on 10/29/61 vs. N.Y. Titans) and matched by Lechler in the 2011 season opener at Denver on September 11. Lechler, who unleashed a 76-yarder on December 24 at Kansas City, has booted three of the four longest punts in franchise history this year. He was the Raiders’ fifth-round draft pick out of Texas A&M in 2000.

Tyvon Branch leads the Raiders in tackles for the second straight year, having registered 103 so far in 2011. He has totaled more than 100 tackles in the past three seasons, with 104 in 2010 and 124 in 2009, which was the highest number of stops for a defensive back for that year.

Darren McFadden has rushed for 614 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt, and caught 19 passes for 154 yards and touchdown this season, despite missing games due to injury. McFadden ran for 1,157 yards last season, the fifth most in Raiders history, and ranked second on the team with 47 receptions for 507 yards. He was a Pro Bowl alternate last year. Kelly has established a career high in sacks for the second straight year and leads the team with 7.5 this season. His sack total currently ranks second amongst NFL defensive tackles. He was a Pro Bowl alternate last year.

Marcel Reece ranks third on the Raiders in rushing (17 attempts, 112 yards, 6.6-yard average) and receiving (25 catches, 273 yards, two touchdowns). He has had catches of 40 and 47 yards and has posted 10 plays of 10 yards or longer from his fullback position.

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