- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

As a player who puts team goals ahead of individual aspirations, Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo figured his club’s 4-11 record would outweigh his 11 sacks when the Pro Bowl squads were announced Tuesday night.

But Orakpo’s productive rookie season was too much for players, coaches and fans to overlook, and he was named as a reserve to the NFC team. Orakpo’s 11 sacks lead NFL rookies and are tied for seventh in the NFL. He is the first Redskins rookie to be named since 1978.

“This is really special because, when you look back at your career, you always want to make the Pro Bowl because it puts you in that elite class,” he said during a conference call. “Obviously, I’m not an individual [awards] type of person, but at the end of the day it really shows that my game has been up to par with the elite guys that I’ve watched and looked up to.”

Orakpo was the only Redskins player selected for the Jan. 31 game, although others could be added when players drop out because of injury or their team playing in the Super Bowl.

Middle linebacker London Fletcher was again left off the roster despite leading his team in tackles for a 10th consecutive season. Defensive end Andre Carter’s 11 sacks weren’t enough for his first Pro Bowl appearance.

“I pay tribute to guys like Andre and Fletch,” Orakpo said. “Those guys really helped me each and every time I was out there. If I could give up my spot to those guys, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

Carter was passed over in favor of Minnesota’s Jared Allen, Philadelphia’s Trent Cole and Carolina’s Julius Peppers. The NFC middle linebackers are Patrick Willis of San Francisco and New Orleans’ Jonathan Vilma.

Minnesota had the most players on the roster (eight), followed by Philadelphia, Dallas and Indianapolis (six apiece).

Players with local ties were Burtonsville native Darnell Dockett (Arizona, starting defensive tackle) and Dunbar High graduates Vernon Davis (San Francisco, starting tight end) and Joshua Cribbs (Cleveland, AFC kick returner).

Orakpo is one of the three rookies in the game, joining Houston linebacker Brian Cushing and Buffalo safety Jarius Byrd. The team’s first-round pick (13th overall) last spring, Orakpo is the first Redskins rookie defensive player and sixth linebacker since the 1970 merger to play in the Pro Bowl.

If there were any doubt about Orakpo’s impact, it was confirmed in the Redskins’ win against Oakland earlier this month. He posted four sacks, three tackles for lost yardage and a forced fumble. The sacks tied a team record, and Orakpo was just the third NFL rookie to accomplish the feat.

“Sacks are a huge stat in this league,” Orakpo said. “I did the best I could to get the quarterback all year long.”

In addition to playing at a new level, Orakpo also experienced a position change, moving from defensive end to strongside linebacker. On passing downs, he has moved back to end opposite Carter and with Albert Haynesworth next to him.

“We are all very excited for Brian for receiving this well deserved honor,” coach Jim Zorn said in a statement. “He is a great athlete who came in and performed well as a young player while learning and playing dual positions in his rookie season.”

Orakpo enters the season finale with 48 tackles having started all 15 games.

“It’s a great honor being my first year playing,” he said. “I can’t say how much I appreciate this honor, and hopefully I’ll get some more in the future and turn this team around as well.”

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