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Packers Notebook - Little Respect For Dominant O-line


The running game ranks third in the league after several weeks at No. 1.

The entire offense ranks fifth in points per game.

The star running back for whom the Green Bay Packers offensive line opens holes is going to the Pro Bowl, and the quarterback that they protect is, too.

And yet, out of the Packers' commanding front five -- which has paved the way for four 200-yard rushing performances this season -- only right guard Marco Rivera was honored with selection into the Pro Bowl this season.

And to many in Green Bay, those numbers don't add up.

"I'm biased to my guys," quarterback Brett Favre said. "But I don't know if there's been a more dominating line up to this point in all of football. It's not one guy, it's five guys.

"I was really, in all honesty, expecting to hear all five guys' names, at least as (alternates)."

Instead, Rivera earns his second straight Pro Bowl berth -- which needs to be commended considering that his selections mark the only times in the past 20 years that a Packers offensive lineman has been so honored -- while center Mike Flanagan picks up an alternate spot.

Thus leaving no all-star acknowledgment whatsoever for tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, as well as guard Mike Wahle, who was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2002.

"To be honest, the thing I'm most surprised about is that Wahle didn't get some sort of recognition," Flanagan said. "It's not going to validate his season one way or the other, but he's had such a good year and I can't be as good as I am, or Marco can't be as good as he is, without the other guys. So it kind of sucks that he doesn't get the recognition."

Sucks probably doesn't begin to describe it.

At a position that rarely gets media attention, Wahle's presence in the Packers' running scheme has been unmistakable this season. His pancake blocks -- knocking an offensive lineman to the ground -- are a frequent sight on Sundays.

And although the running attack has slowed in recent weeks from its blazing midseason pace, the Packers single-season team rushing record of 2,460 yards, sits just 320 yards away with two games to play.

But Wahle said Thursday that he isn't about to let his lack of Pro Bowl recognition ruin what has been an outstanding season, even if the demotion from alternate to also-ran is difficult to accept.

"You don't want to take a step backward, especially when you're improving," Wahle said. "But you don't really know how the balloting is going to turn out for you. It didn't turn out in my favor this year and, shoot, I'm over it already.

"There are a lot of teams out there that have a lot of good players. Maybe to have two out of five (recognized) isn't the worst thing in the world."

Rare Miss

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

The tradition continues for kicker Ryan Longwell, who for the fourth time in his seven-year career was named a Pro Bowl alternate despite hitting 20-of-22 field goals this season and 42-of-42 PATs.

"I can't hit the ball any better than I have, so I've laid it all out there," Longwell said. "One of these years hopefully I can get there, but if not, it certainly won't ruin my career."

Only one kicker from each conference earns the right to advance to the Pro Bowl and this year it's St. Louis' Jeff Wilkins representing the NFC.

Wilkins leads all kickers in scoring with 146 points, but has somewhat of an advantage over the likes of Longwell (102 points), because he gets to play half of his games in the controlled environment of the Edward Jones Dome.

Longwell is certain that he's earned the respect of opposing kickers who have experienced the swirling winds and imperfect footing of Lambeau Field, but that doesn't mean he was surprised Thursday to learn that the majority of the Pro Bowl votes went to the leading scorer.

"It's funny, the guys that kick here that play us every year say, 'Man, you're going to get my vote, no doubt,'" Longwell said. "But it comes down to other people looking at the top of the charts. Not to take anything away from Wilkins, I mean he's had an unbelievable year, but that's just the way it goes."

Although disappointed not to be headed to Hawaii, Longwell isn't consumed by individual honors.

Last weekend against the San Diego Chargers, Longwell quietly became the Packers' all-time leading scorer with 826 career points.

But even though the previous all-time scoring leader, Don Hutson, has an indoor practice facility named in his honor, Longwell joked Thursday that he'll be okay if his monument a little less majestic.

"We figure the Ryan Longwell Plaza at the Don Hutson Center, which is the little hallway in front of the bathrooms," Longwell said. "We may put a piece of tape up and write it in there just to cut costs."

Honorable Mention

Tight end Bubba Franks was more than a bit surprised Thursday to learn that he'd been named an alternate for this year's NFC all-star team.

Despite coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons, Franks' expectations weren't even that high.

"I didn't even think I'd make alternate," Franks admitted. "That was a shocker right there."

Now in his fourth professional season, Franks hasn't been the Packers' go-to target in the red zone in 2003 as he has been in the past.

In his Pro Bowl seasons of 2001 and 2002, Franks caught nine and seven touchdown passes, respectively.

But this season, Franks' play-making opportunities have been limited due to the continued development of wide receivers Robert Ferguson and Javon Walker, as well as the emergence of the running game as one of the NFL's most dominant attacks.

Now Franks finds himself playing more of a run-blocking role than a pass-catching one, with three touchdown catches among his 26 receptions overall.

"That's what I've been asked to do this year," Franks said. "People see I'm still out there working even though I still haven't had as many touchdowns. But that's just respect. I'm honored."

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