Packers celebrate first-time Pro Bowlers, lament those left out

Teammates stick up for those who got “snubbed”

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TE Robert Tonyan and G Elgton Jenkins

GREEN BAY – It's fair to say the reactions inside the Packers' locker room to the team's Pro Bowl selections were a bit mixed.

While there was genuine excitement and happiness for the three young players who got their first Pro Bowl honor – running back Aaron Jones, cornerback Jaire Alexander and offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins – there was just as much disappointment over two players their teammates felt deserved to get the first-time recognition – center Corey Linsley and tight end Robert Tonyan.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur stressed on Tuesday that getting overlooked "doesn't make them any less valuable to our team," but their teammates were still a bit miffed.

"Totally should have been on there," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, referring to both Linsley and Tonyan.

"I feel for the guy," left tackle David Bakhtiari said of his linemate, Linsley. "He played his best ball this year. Best center in the league for 2020."

"He got snubbed big-time," receiver Davante Adams said of Tonyan.

In Tonyan's case, his 10 receiving TDs are tied with Kansas City's Travis Kelce for most in the league for a tight end, and his 49 receptions for 551 yards stack up with those of the NFC's two selections, Detroit's T.J. Hockenson and the New York Giants' Evan Engram (who has just one TD).

For Linsley, who returned to practice Tuesday after a three-game absence due to a knee injury, Rodgers feels especially bad because his longtime center is in a contract year, and honors might factor into negotiations.

Bakhtiari, who snagged his third Pro Bowl honor, certainly knows how they feel, having waited until last year to garner a selection in the initial voting process (he went as an alternate back in 2016).

Bakhtiari actually was named an Associated Press All-Pro, which is a more selective group, before he was voted a Pro Bowler, and he pondered that same possibility for Linsley.

"I'm excited and hopeful that the All-Pro (voters), they get it right," Bakhtiari said.

That said, the first-time achievements for Jones, Alexander and Jenkins were worth celebrating.

Jones had his breakout season last year, with 19 touchdowns (16 rushing, three receiving) and his first 1,000-yard season. He followed the usual pattern of the initial Pro Bowl honors coming the following year.

Same for Alexander, who joined Za'Darius Smith (two straight selections) as the Pro Bowl reps from the Packers' defense. Alexander established himself as a true No. 1 cover corner in 2019 and has now reached the level where quarterbacks throw his way less and less frequently.

Adams, who got his fourth straight Pro Bowl nod, has spoken highly of Alexander since his arrival in 2018 and has been no less impressed this year.

"Man, he's been ballin'," Adams said. "I was super, super happy for him. He's been different since he came here, as far as his attention to detail. Everything about him seems super vet-like to me.

"He came in with this swag, this personality on the field … there's been some guys – Casey (Hayward), Sam Shields – these guys were really good, lockdown corners and Jaire has his own little swag to him that's something I appreciate. He comes out and brings it every single day, similar to how I approach the game."

Because of the standard timeline, the recognition for Jenkins, a 2019 draft pick, was perhaps most surprising. A PFWA All-Rookie pick last year, Jenkins may have been noticed more than most second-year guys due to starting at guard, tackle and center at different times this season, and playing well at all the spots.

His work has stood out as "definitely Pro Bowl-worthy," according to Rodgers, who earned his ninth career honor to tie the franchise record.

As the elder statesman and most accomplished lineman, Bakhtiari has a close relationship with Jenkins that he calls "brother-like," in terms of always pushing him and keeping him grounded, even if Jenkins gets "annoyed with it." A four-time All-Pro being talked about as possibly Canton-bound, Bakhtiari believes Jenkins' achievements are potentially limitless.

"I just keep preaching to him: 'Hey, by no means have you made it. For what you can accomplish, it's a nice accolade on your journey,'" Bakhtiari said. "That's one thing I try to keep pressing on him because I see a lot more things in his future, and I want to make sure he can obtain all of them."

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