Watching Lorenzo Alexander do his thing on special teams the previous two seasons, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was surprised the linebacker hadn’t made the Pro Bowl.
But someone closer to Alexander was more eager to see him get to the game in Honolulu.
“My wife really wanted to go,” Alexander said. “So she’s always pushing me: ‘Are you going? Are you going? Get people to vote.’ ”
The people voted and on Wednesday Alexander was named to his first career Pro Bowl, evidence of his special teams play finally getting noticed.
“Special teams overall kind of gets overlooked because it’s mostly not understood very well, and it’s hard to see people. Just like offensive linemen. You kind of lose track of them throughout a game,” Alexander said. “I think it’s been getting more and more notoriety over the years as far as when guys start making plays.”
And Alexander, by his own count, has made more plays this season than in the past, about eight or nine more tackles than 2011 at this time. The Redskins credit him with 29 special teams tackles, and although it’s a subjective stat, it’s impossible to deny his presence on the field.
“He’s been such a dominating force on special teams,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “Coaches eventually see guys that make plays, and he’s been doing that this year when he’s been double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed.”
The difference this year, Alexander said, is he’s lighter and faster. That has allowed him to get down the field faster on kickoff coverage and make more tackles.
“Some of those tackles I probably would’ve missed last year,” Alexander said.
That said, Alexander was quick to praise everyone for his first Pro Bowl nomination, including special teams coordinator Danny Smith, safety Reed Doughty and kicker Kai Forbath.
“Everybody that’s been contributing to allow me to do what I do,” Alexander said. “Obviously it’s not a one-man show without those guys helping me out, I wouldn’t be able to do this. Also I just love guys like James Thrash, Rock Cartwright, Khary Campbell that kind of took me under their wing to really help me grow into the special teams player that I am now.”
Before sticking with the Redskins in 2007, Alexander was cut by the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. His journey was one from undrafted defensive lineman who had to play short-yardage offensive line snaps to stick around to Pro Bowl special teams linebacker.
“I don’t know if says something about me, personally. I had a lot of people that’s supporting me, helping me get through not getting drafted, being cut several times. I was able to stick it in there, and I had great coaching and players throughout my career to really help me flourish,” he said. “So I think it’s more about who I came in contact with vs. what I was able to do. Obviously I have the skill and talent, but I was blessed by God with that and fortunate enough I came across good people that coached it and played it a a high level to where now I can find myself in a situation where I can be considered one of the best to have done it in the season.”
Being one of the best could also pay some major dividends for Alexander this offseason. His contract is up and adding a Pro Bowl appearance to his resume shouldn’t hurt negotiations.
“Obviously coaches always want players and pay players that are considered the best in their position, whether that’s special teams, linebacker, and also want to pay people that have been around winners. So obviously having a winning season and also being voted to this would definitely help me get a better deal,” Alexander said. “I don’t really know. It just shows how good God is, how everything is kind of, I’m playing my best football, being voted to the Pro Bowl, all in a year when my contract is up.
“So hopefully that works out for me. But ultimately I want to be here. Been here all my career for the most part, and I love this community and the organization has always supported me, so we’ll see what happens here in the future.”