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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings’ defenders shrug off Pro Bowl shutout, ‘it’s a popularity contest’

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When at full strength, the Vikings’ defense is up there with the best in the league.

Perhaps the problem with this year’s Pro Bowl voting was the Vikings weren’t at full strength for a couple weeks by the time the majority of player and coach votes were cast, which make up two-thirds of the balloting system. The Pro Bowl selections were announced on Tuesday. Only running back Adrian Peterson made the cut for the Vikings (9-5), who have a shot to win the NFC North.

Defensive end Brian Robison doesn’t care too much for the honor, or lack thereof.

“You know man, I’m over the Pro Bowl,” Robison said Wednesday. “Pro Bowl is a popularity contest. It’s just one of those things where you see guys make it and they absolutely deserve it. And you see some guys that don’t make it and you wonder how the heck they didn’t make it. So, it is what it is. At the end of the day, the good thing about our team is we’re not concentrating on Pro Bowl stuff, we’re concentrating about winning ball games.”

The three main Pro Bowl candidates for the Vikings defense were nose tackle Linval Joseph, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith. All three have been hampered by injuries in the last three weeks.

“Like B-Rob [Robison] said, it sucked,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “At the same time, I felt like we should’ve had more people on there. We’re a good football team, we got a lot of great players on this team. I guess the fans or some of the guys didn’t see it the same way we did. It’s a team game, so we’re trying to have our goal on one thing and that’s winning the division.”

When nose tackle Linval Joseph was playing at his most dominant, as the defense held five of their first seven opponents to under 100 rushing yards, one Vikings coach said it’d be a ‘crime’ if he was not voted into the Pro Bowl. A month later, Joseph was forced out for three consecutive games because of a bothersome foot injury. He has not played since Nov. 29 in Atlanta.

Linebacker Anthony Barr also gave canine teeth to Mike Zimmer’s defense as one of the most effective blitzing 4-3 linebackers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s grown more as an all-around player in his second season, just as effective against the run as he is using his length in coverage. Problem is, Barr has been playing with a broken left hand since the Nov. 8 win against St. Louis and, in the games following, Zimmer did not blitz nearly as much as when he had a healthy Barr.

Barr has essentially been held out since Nov. 29 as well, playing just 1.5 series in the Dec. 6 loss to Seattle before a nagging groin injury forced him out of the last two starts. He was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury, something that has also hampered him this season.

Barr had a sense of humor about the deal.

“It is what it is,” Barr said. “Obviously it would’ve been cool to make it, but I’m not going to cry over it. I can relate to my favorite actor though, [Leonardo] DiCaprio. So, we’re in the same boat now. I don’t feel too bad.”

DiCaprio, of course, is famous for his many leading roles and infamous for having not won a ‘Best Actor’ Academy Award yet.

None of the three defenders had gaudy numbers before their injuries, which was especially true for safety Harrison Smith. Smith has one of the best (lowest) QB ratings when targeted among all NFL safeties, according to Pro Football Focus, but he hasn’t been thrown at often in a defense cycling through options at the safety spot next to him. The hard-hitting Smith has currently knocked more opponents out of games than he has sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles, for which he has one of each this season.

Peterson said some of his teammates were snubbed, including fullback Zach Line.

“It’s unfortunate I’m the only one that made it,” Peterson said. “I think a couple guys should’ve made it. It’s a team effort to send a player off to the Pro Bowl. My fullback, I have no idea how he didn’t make the cut. The numbers he have, you know, I don’t think you could find another fullback that would match.”

The post Vikings’ defenders shrug off Pro Bowl shutout, ‘it’s a popularity contest’ appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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