At 2-13, the Chiefs were hopeful of getting one player, running back Jamaal Charles, into the Pro Bowl.
Charles made it and so did four of his teammates. Safety Eric Berry and outside linebacker Tamba Hali were selected as starters. Charles, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and punter Dustin Colquitt are Pro Bowlers as well.
The NFL announced the Pro Bowl teams Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, coach Romeo Crennel wasn’t optimistic the Chiefs would have anyone except Charles in the Pro Bowl.
“In this business, when you win, teams and players get more recognition,” Crennel said. “When you lose, you don’t get as much recognition. But (Charles has) been a bright spot for us. He has a chance to become a 1,500-yard rusher and those don’t come along every day.”
This will be the second Pro Bowl for each of the players except for Colquitt, who will be going for the first time.
Earlier in the day, it appeared that only Charles, the AFC’s leading rusher with 1,456 yards, stood a good chance of getting to the Pro Bowl with Johnson having an outside chance.
Both Johnson and Crennel sounded as if they expected he wouldn’t make it.
“The Pro Bowl is a secondary deal,” Johnson said. “Team goals always come first. I always say that.
“You want to be recognized in that Pro Bowl circle but … doesn’t make my season better or worse if I don’t make it.”
Johnson leads the Chiefs in tackles this season but hasn’t made the type of big plays that change games, as he’s done in the past couple of seasons.
“I think I’ve done pretty good being consistent, not having really good games, not having really bad games,” Johnson said. “I’ve been injured a little bit this year but I’ve fought through it a few times just to try to help my team win.
“I think I’ve done OK this year. My standards are through the roof when it comes to my play on the football field.”
Crennel said, “Derrick Johnson is a very productive player for us. Has been the last couple of years and very productive this year. But on a losing team, sometimes you get overlooked.”
Berry missed all but a handful of plays last season because of torn knee ligaments. He started this season slowly but has played better in recent weeks.
Hali has nine sacks, second on the Chiefs to Justin Houston. Colquitt has done a nice job this season of dropping punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. He has 42 such kicks this season with just seven touchbacks.
Charles, meanwhile, was an obvious choice. He leads the AFC in rushing by a wide margin. He’s one of only two conference runners to average more than five yards per carry and have more than 500 yards.
Charles was sent home before practice Wednesday because of flu symptoms. Last week he said being selected for the Pro Bowl was one of his preseason goals.
“If I make the Pro Bowl … it will probably be the best feeling I felt this whole month, this whole year,” Charles said. “That would mean a lot.”
The Pro Bowl selection is yet another validation that Charles’ return from the knee injury that prematurely ended his 2011 season is a huge success. Charles has 1,456 rushing yards, 128 more than the AFC’s next leading rusher, Houston’s Arian Foster.
He has two games with more than 200 yards and three touchdown runs of at least 80 yards.
“He was my number one running back that I voted for,” said linebacker Von Miller, who along with his Broncos teammates plays against the Chiefs on Sunday in Denver. “Even with the circumstances going on in (Kansas City), they might not be playing the best football right now or all season long, but Jamaal Charles has been playing at a high level all season long.
“To have some of the success that he has in the environment he’s in. I think it’s great. I think if he had one of the best offensive lines in the league, who knows? He might be closing in on the rushing record like Adrian Peterson.”
But Charles’ accomplishments are largely lost on a national level because of the problems his teammates are having around him. He was just fourth among AFC running backs in the fan portion of the Pro Bowl voting.
“It’s about the quietest 1,500 yards in the history of the NFL,” quarterback Brady Quinn said.
Those not paying attention to Charles’ season are missing out on a good story. He missed most of last season after tearing knee ligaments and having surgery but quickly returned as the player he was before the injury. He had 233 rushing yards in the season’s third game against New Orleans, one of the Chiefs’ victories this season.
“I can’t really name a back out there in the AFC that I’d want more than Jamaal Charles,” tackle Eric Winston said. “The thing that’s impressed me is that he’s gotten better as the year’s gone on.
“I’ve been so impressed with some of the runs he’s made. People in Kansas City have probably been a little spoiled in the sense they’re used to seeing him break an 80-yard run twice or three times a year. To me, seeing this is unbelievable.”
Because he was coming off the injury, Crennel and the Chiefs weren’t certain what they would get from Charles this season.
“I really didn’t know,” Crennel said. “When players come off major injuries, you really don’t know what to expect. I knew he had been working hard, he had been rehabbing hard and he wanted to do well. But until you get out there on the field and take a hit, be hit, plant and cut and do those kinds of things, you’re not sure.
“He went through training camp, he went through the preseason and he got better and more confident as he did that and was able to feel confident in the fact that he could run with it and he could plant and he could cut and he could do the things he did before. I felt like if he returned to form, that he was a very good runner. I knew he had those capabilities. By him working at it … I felt good about it. In 2010, he was a good runner then.”