Calvin Johnson, Jared Allen top All-Pros
NEW YORK -- Calvin Johnson took one look at the voting and smiled broadly.
"That's sweet," he said, as he studied The Associated Press 2011 NFL All-Pro Team. "That's one of the best honors you can have other than being a Super Bowl champion. To be an All-Pro is a tremendous honor."
Johnson and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen were the leading vote getters, each just one vote shy of being a unanimous pick.
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Quarterback Aaron Rodgers made the team for the first time, easily beating Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, 47½ to 2½. Rodgers led Green Bay to a league-best 15-1 record this season, after taking the Packers to the Super Bowl title last February.
"I am a competitor," Rodgers said. "I care desperately about winning and doing everything I can to contribute. But personally, speaking for my own self, you learn exactly what you need to do to be able to balance the pressure from the outside with the pressure from within, that you put on yourself to be successful. Last year's run is really going to help all of us and our preparation through the week."
Johnson and Allen received 49 votes Friday from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. It was the fourth All-Pro Team for Allen, who led the league with 22 sacks, one-half short of the record. Johnson made it for the first time after hauling in 96 catches for a 17.5-yard average and scoring 16 touchdowns.
"The All-Pro Team to me is one of the all-time accomplishments," said Allen, who also was selected in 2007 through 2009. "Pro Bowls are nice, but guys get voted in longer than they should and guys who deserve to go don't always get to. It's the whole league. It's not just an AFC and NFC thing. So to me this is the honor I hold the highest. It's something to put on the resume and tell the grandkids about."
One rookie made the squad: Arizona's Patrick Peterson was selected as the kick returner. Peterson tied an NFL mark when he ran back four punts for touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in overtime to beat the Rams.
"It's special to be the only rookie on the list and a nice way to end my first NFL season," said Peterson, a cornerback.
"That's a great honor and that's a long time since it happened," Nicks said. "I think this shows it's recognized that we are strong and physical and not just big guys. We are athletic enough to pass protect 45 to 50 times a game and keep Drew clean."
In the All-Pro backfield joining Rodgers, whose quarterback rating of 122.5 broke Peyton Manning's single-season mark, were Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville, LeSean McCoy of Philadelphia, and fullback Vonta Leach of Baltimore.
It's the first All-Pro selections for Jones-Drew, the league's rushing leader with 1,606 yards, and McCoy. Leach made it last year with Houston.
"It is a 'we' thing, not a 'me' thing," Jones-Drew said, praising his teammates on offense and his coaches. "The guys who don't get the glory and keep blocking all day, and the coaches who don't get enough credit, it's for them."
McCoy scored 20 touchdowns, 17 rushing, and was the brightest spot in a down year for the hyped Eagles. Yet ...
"There are so many things I can do better," he said. "I look at the numbers and see so many plays I left on the field, so many yards. I can perfect my game a lot more."
Record-setter Rob Gronkowski was the tight end. The Patriot set the single-season mark at his position with 1,327 yards receiving. Teammate Wes Welker (league-high 122 catches) was the other receiver.
Joining Allen on the defensive line were ends Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants, and tackles Haloti Ngata of the Ravens and Justin Smith of the 49ers -- who also placed third at DE; the 49ers used him at both spots.
"Actually, I knew that I was going to have a great year this year," said Pierre-Paul, in his second season with the Giants. "I came in and last year I had an all right season and I wanted to do better than what I did last year. Next season in 2012, I should be better than this year."
The linebackers were Suggs and DeMarcus Ware of Dallas on the outside, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers and Derrick Johnson of the Chiefs on the inside. Bowman and Johnson tied with 16 votes, half of Willis' total.
Repeaters from 2010 were Polamalu, Revis, Willis, Ngata, Evans, Thomas and Leach.
In addition to Johnson, Jones-Drew, McCoy and Peterson, other first-timers were Gronkowski, Nicks, Peters, Pouncey, Pierre-Paul, Smith, Suggs, Bowman, Johnson and Weddle.
The 49ers led the All-Pro Team with five players, a testament to the turnaround in San Francisco under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Baltimore was next with three players. The Ravens are coached by Jim Harbaughs brother, John, whose team beat the 49ers on Thanksgiving night.
There were 16 players from the NFC and 12 from the AFC.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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