Five Green Bay Packers, the most since 1998, have been named to the NFC squad for the 2003 Pro Bowl, the National Football League announced Thursday.
Headed by quarterback Brett Favre, a seventh-time selection to professional football's all-star contest, his fellow honorees include running back Ahman Green, tight end Bubba Franks, offensive guard Marco Rivera and safety Darren Sharper.
Franks and Green are repeat selections from 2001, when they were so honored for the first time in their NFL career
It also is the second Pro Bowl honor for Sharper, a first time selection following the 2000 season.
Rivera, a seventh-year professional, is the first Green Bay offensive lineman to be chosen since center Larry McCarren was named to the NFC squad in 1983.
The quintet represents the most Packers to be accorded Pro Bowl selection since 1998, when five players were chosen – S LeRoy Butler, TE Mark Chmura, WR Antonio Freeman, KR Roell Preston and DE Reggie White.
Six other Packers were named alternates to the NFC squad. They include: WR Donald Driver, DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, FB William Henderson, K Ryan Longwell, CB Mike McKenzie and OG Mike Wahle.
The game will be played in Honolulu, its home since 1980, on Sunday, Feb 2. Starters for the contest will be announced Jan. 4.
Favre, the NFC's third-ranking passer with a 90.3 rating heading into this weekend's game against Buffalo, previously was named to the conference's Pro Bowl squad in 1992-93, 1995-97 and 2001.
The 33-year-old field general has thrown 25 touchdown passes, second in the NFL only to the 26 by the New Orleans Saints' Aaron Brooks and New England's Tom Brady, while completing 310 of 485 passes for 3,372 yards, with 13 interceptions.
Green, who last week became only the third running back in team history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, ranks fourth in the NFC with 1,057 yards in 246 attempts, a 4.3-yard average, and is fifth in total yards from scrimmage with 1,428, including 371 yards receiving.
The 6-6, 260-pound Franks leads NFC tight ends in touchdown receptions with 6 and ranks second in the conference in receptions at the position with a career-high 51 – for a career-best 407 yards.
Sharper, the Packers' starter at free safety for the fifth straight year, is tied with six others for the NFL lead in interceptions with 6 and, over the final two games of the regular season, he will be attempting to become the first player in the Packers' storied history to twice lead the NFL in interceptions, having previously done so in 2000 with 9.
Rivera, one of the most durable performers in recent Packers history, has been a starting guard for a fifth straight season and has not missed a start this season despite having torn the medial collateral ligament in both knees, keeping intact a 65-game playing streak, 68 including playoffs, the fourth-longest active streak on the team.
Driver, who has made a quantum professional leap in becoming a starter for the first time this season, ranks eighth in the NFC in receiving yards with 1,002 and 10th in receptions with 64.
Gbaja-Biamila, who this season has become the first Packers defender to register back-to-back, double-digit sack seasons since Reggie White in 1997-98, is tied for fourth place in the NFC with 11.0 sacks.
Henderson, the Packers' starting fullback for the seventh straight year, continues to enhance his stature as one of the premier blockers in NFL history. With backfield mate Ahman Green having gone over 1,000 yards rushing this season, Henderson has joined Howard Griffith (six, with Rams, Panthers and Broncos) as the only two fullbacks in league annals to have blocked for as many as five 1,000-yard rushers (also 1997, 1999-2001).
Longwell, nearing a career single-season high, is the NFL's second-leading scorer with 119 points – 4 back of league-leader David Akers of Philadelphia. Longwell needs 13 points in the team's last two games to surpass his single season high, 131, registered in 2000.
McKenzie, emerging as one of the NFL's top "shutdown" cornerbacks in his fourth year as a starter, leads the team in passes defensed with 13, despite missing three October games because of injury.
Wahle, like Rivera, is one of the most consistent and durable offensive linemen in recent team history. Finding a home at left guard in 2001, he now has played in 63 consecutive games (65, including playoffs) – every contest since seeing his initial action in the finale of his '98 rookie campaign.