- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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Eli Manning said at the start of the season that he is an elite quarterback. And his peers agree.
Manning and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul were voted to represent the New York Giants on the 2012 NFC Pro Bowl team. Fans, coaches and players voted for players although Pierre-Paul was voted in by coaches and players since he was not on the Pro Bowl fan voting ballot.
“It’s a real honor,” Manning said in a statement released by the team. “Obviously, when you make it to the Pro Bowl it’s because your team, the offensive line, my receivers are doing a great job protecting me, getting open, making plays. Considering some of the other quarterbacks in the NFC who have had outstanding seasons, I’m really thrilled and truly honored to be named to the Pro Bowl team.”
Pierre-Paul made his first Pro Bowl in just his second season.
“It means a lot,” Pierre-Paul said. “It means I’m doing good.”
Wide receiver Victor Cruz and right guard Chris Snee were named second alternates to the NFC All-Star team. Snee has been a Pro Bowl pick the last three years.
Cruz, who was not on the Pro Bowl fan ballot either since players were nominated to the ballots by teams early in the season, said it would've been a blessing to be named to the Pro Bowl team. Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, Carolina's Steve Smith and Green Bay's Greg Jennings were named as the NFC Pro Bowl wide receivers.
While it is an honor for both Manning and Pierre-Paul, both Giants hope not to play in the Pro Bowl, which is played in Honolulu on Sunday, Jan. 29. The game will take place the week before the Super Bowl so the Giants hope that they will still be playing games that count.
Manning, who joins Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans' Drew Brees as the NFC's quarterbacks, is the first Giants QB to be selected to two Pro Bowls since Phil Simms was a Pro Bowl selection in 1985 and 1993. Manning is enjoying his finest season as a pro, passing for a career-high 4,587 yards, 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions entering the final week of the season.
He has reduced his interceptions, as promised, from the 25 he had last season.
“I think I have thrown the ball well, but again, I think the receivers have done a good job,” Manning said. “We had some guys step up, so a lot of credit goes to them. I feel like I improved on some things. My whole mindset is the team having success and us winning games. At this point right now we have a chance to make it to the playoffs and win this last game versus Dallas. That’s the mindset right now.”
“I’m not losing focus,” Manning said. “I’m not going to be planning any reservations in Hawaii right now. I’m trying to get ready for Dallas and get ready to play that game.”
Pierre-Paul has 15.5 sacks and 81 tackles in just his second year, after having 4.5 sacks as a rookie. Pierre-Paul has benefited from increased playing time due to injuries to Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck and has blossomed as a result. He had his best game as pro against the Cowboys a few weeks ago with two sacks, one safety, one forced fumble and blocking a potential game-tying field goal.
“With Tuck and Osi being out, it gave me a chance to show my coaches that I can perform at a high level, even though they didn’t expect me to have a breakout season,” Pierre-Paul said. “Just feel the joy right now. I’m having a good feeling even though I knew I could do it all along. I’m happy because everybody sees it now. They know that I am one of the key players that the Giants have on their team.”
Pierre-Paul, who turns 23 on Sunday, knew he was going to take a huge leap forward this season, especially after he had two sacks in the preseason opener against Carolina.
“Honestly, I told my best friend, ‘This year I’m going to do way better than I did last year because I know what I’m going into, I know what to expect,’” Pierre-Paul said. “Last year, I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know too much of the playbook. This year I knew that everyone was starting from scratch again and I knew that I was going to have a breakout season this year. Nobody else did. And sure enough, I did.”
“When we played against Carolina and I recorded two sacks in that game, I said, ‘Okay, this year is my year, I can do it this year,’” Pierre-Paul said. “That’s when I was like, ‘Let me just play to my full potential’ and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
Manning is proud of his teammate and how far last year’s first-round pick has come.
“[Pierre-Paul] definitely deserves it,” Manning said. “He’s had a phenomenal year. It’s amazing, it doesn’t look like he ever comes off the field. Making sacks, but also making a lot of tackles, just being around the football, knocking balls down, causing fumbles, getting safeties -- he’s all over the place. He definitely deserves it.”