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Patriots, 49ers top Pro Bowl squads

- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

NEW YORK — The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers each lead the Pro Bowl rosters with eight players apiece. Baltimore and Green Bay each have seven players for the Jan. 29 game in Honolulu, the NFL has announced Tuesday.

Quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Wes Welker, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, defensive end Andre Carter, and guards Brian Waters and Logan Mankins are starters for the AFC from the Patriots.

Linebacker Patrick Willis, DE Justin Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers and tackle Joe Staley will start for the NFC from the 49ers, who had only Smith and Willis make the Pro Bowl last year.

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is the starting NFC quarterback, backed by record-setting Drew Brees of New Orleans.

The Washington Redskins had no players selected.

Four of the NFL's biggest headline makers this season did not get voted in by players, coaches and fans: Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, Steelers LB James Harrison, Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton and Denver QB Tim Tebow.

Fifteen first-time Pro Bowlers made the NFC squad, including Rogers, Staley and safety Dashon Goldson of the 49ers. Thirteen AFC players were first-time selections, including Gronkowski, Carter and Slater of New England. Carter is on injured reserve (left quadriceps) and won't play.

Brees holds passing record — for now

METAIRIE, La. — A day after Sean Payton helped Drew Brees break the NFL's single-season passing record the coach wouldn't divulge whether he'd enable his star quarterback to maintain that distinction.

With 5,087 yards passing this season after Monday night's 45-16 victory over Atlanta, Brees enters the final week of the season 190 yards ahead of New England's Tom Brady. Yet the Saints' regular-season finale may not matter in terms of playoff seeding, meaning the prudent choice for Payton could be to rest Brees for much of Sunday's game against Carolina.

The Patriots, by contrast, need to beat Buffalo to ensure they'll have the top seed in the AFC.

Redskins release running back Torain

ASHBURN — The Washington Redskins released running back Ryan Torain, who started four games this season but fell behind rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster on the depth chart.

Torain rushed for only 200 yards, with 135 coming in the win over the Rams on Oct. 2. He rushed for 742 yards for the Redskins last year.

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