The Pro Bowl’s move back to the islands makes for a longer trip for the former Miami Hurricane. And in some ways, perhaps Meriweather had to go a little farther this season to earn a spot with the AFC all-stars.
The fourth-year free safety’s numbers dropped some compared to the previous two years, and he was coming off the bench for the Patriots early in the season. Yet here is, back on the AFC roster and slated to start in the secondary on Sunday along with Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty.
“It’s an indicator that my peers think I’m one of the better players at my position in the league,” Meriweather said after the AFC’s walk-through at Aloha Stadium on Saturday morning. “So with all the ups and downs I had to go through and our team went through, it’s kind of refreshing to know that.
“It means a lot, even to be an alternate in this game.”
Meriweather was fifth on the team with 68 total tackles and finished the season with three interceptions. After starting all 16 regular-season games in his breakout 2009 campaign (83 tackles with five picks) that culminated in his first Pro Bowl berth, he played a reserve role in three games this season.
That span included a win against Buffalo in which he broke up a pass and intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter after coming in off the bench.
While he regained a starting role, Meriweather didn’t point to the missed starts as a motivating factor in his Pro Bowl push.
“Just playing football motivates me,” Meriweather said.
As for his stay in Hawaii, Meriweather said the Patriots have been “chilling with their families and doing all the little things that we don’t get to do during the season.”
And he’s got a definite plan once tomorrow’s game finally punctuates the season.
“Go home and have fun with my daughter.”
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Jason Kaneshiro is covering the Pro Bowl for ESPNBoston.com all week.