Manning Unanimous Choice For All-Pro Team; 10-Year Veteran Henderson Selected For First Time
Peyton Manning was unstoppable on the field this season, and in the All-Pro voting, too.
The record-setting Indianapolis Colts quarterback was a unanimous choice Thursday for The Associated Press 2004 NFL All-Pro Team. Manning received all 48 first-place votes from a nationwide panel of writers and broadcasts who cover pro football, the only player to sweep the voting this year.
After sharing the MVP award with Steve McNair last year, Manning reached a new level in '04.
"Last year was fun,'' Manning said. "This year was more fun because the things we wanted to do, we came out, worked on them and got them done.''
Manning broke Dan Marino's 20-year-old record for touchdown passes in a season with 49, and shattered Steve Young's passer rating mark with a 121.1. Indeed, he would have had to go 0-for-20 with five interceptions in the final game to not break the record.
Manning also was the All-Pro quarterback in 2003, when he was the co-MVP with McNair of Tennessee.
The AP Most Valuable Player will be announced on Monday.
Surprisingly, despite the Colts' prolific offense, Manning was their only All-Pro on that side of the ball. Defensive end Dwight Freeney, the NFL sacks leader with 16, made it on defense.
The AFC's dominance this season was evident on the All-Pro team, with 19 players from that conference and just 10 from the NFC. Pittsburgh, with a 15-1 regular-season mark, had the most AFC players: guard Alan Faneca, center Jeff Hartings and inside linebacker James Farrior.
Faneca made it for the third time, Hartings and Farrior were among 17 first-time All-Pros.
Philadelphia also had three members: wide receiver Terrell Owens, making it for the fourth time; safety Brian Dawkins (third time) and cornerback Lito Sheppard (first).
Although Minnesota's defense struggled this year, it had a prime player in tackle Kevin Williams, also a new All-Pro.
"He's just an elite player,'' Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "Kevin makes a lot of plays, and in big games he seems to play better.''
Also among the players making an All-Pro debut was 31-year-old Curtis Martin, who won his first rushing title this season. Martin, of the New York Jets, has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in all 10 of his NFL seasons, tying the record of Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.
He was joined in the backfield by LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego, also a first-timer. So was Tomlinson's teammate, tight end Antonio Gates, a 2003 undrafted rookie who helped spark the Chargers' turnaround season.
Another 10-year veteran, Packers fullback William Henderson, was selected for the first time. He also made his first Pro Bowl this season.
"This is a little bigger deal than the Pro Bowl. I'm kind of blown away to be honest with you. This was nothing I was expecting,'' he said.
"I'm a grunt workhorse, that's the way I look at it. That's what I do and I accepted that role a long time ago. I'm not expecting to get any accolades when I go out there.''
Baltimore inside linebacker Ray Lewis made the team for the fifth time, the most among 2004 All-Pros. Tampa Bay outside LB Derrick Brooks made it for the fourth time, as did Oakland punter Shane Lechler and Kansas City tackle William Roaf.
Repeaters from 2003 were Manning, Lewis, Roaf, Lechler and New England defensive tackle Richard Seymour _ all AFC players.
"It's just a blessing,'' Seymour said. "When I came into the National Football League, I really didn't know how good I was going to be. Just to come here and be considered one of the best, it's humbling.''
Added Lechler, who led the league with a 46.7-yard gross average: "I kind of like to set goals. I set team goals and individual goals and this was definitely on it.''
Kick returner Eddie Drummond made it even though he missed the final month with a shoulder injury. That shows how much impact he had for the Lions before being sidelined: Drummond finished first in the NFL in punt returns (13.2-yard average) and second in kickoff returns (26.6 average). He returned two of each for touchdowns.
In a loss to Jacksonville, he returned two punts for touchdowns in the fourth quarter and finished with six punt returns for 199 yards.
"I'm glad I got this reward because it also shows that we have great players on special teams in Detroit,'' he said. "At the beginning of the season, we made it a point to be the top special teams units in every category and we were at least on kick and punt returns.''