Three Bengals -- QB Andy Dalton, DT Geno Atkins and TE Jermaine Gresham -- have been added to the AFC squad for next Sunday's Pro Bowl, the NFL announced today.
Dalton and Atkins were both first alternates in last month's voting, and Gresham was a third alternate. All three will replace New England players who were removed from the squad today when the Patriots won the AFC Championship and qualified for Super Bowl XLVI. Dalton will replace New England QB Tom Brady, Atkins will take the spot of Patriots DT Vince Wilfork, and Gresham will replace Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. Two alternates voted ahead of Gresham are not available for the game, the league announced.
The Bengals now have four players headed for the Pro Bowl, as WR A.J. Green was voted to the AFC team last month. The four players have a total of only six years' NFL experience, as Atkins and Gresham were second-year players in 2011 while Dalton and Green were rookies.
Dalton and Green form the first rookie QB-WR duo from the same team ever to be in the Pro Bowl.
The last time the Bengals had as many as four players in the Pro Bowl was the 2005 season. Five players made it in '05 -- OT Willie Anderson, K Shayne Grahan, WR Chad Ochocinco, CB Deltha O'Neal and QB Carson Palmer.
Dalton is the first rookie QB to make the Pro Bowl since Vince Young of Tennessee in the 2006 season. A second-round draft choice from TCU, Dalton in 2011 led the Bengals to a playoff berth and became the first rookie QB in NFL history to start as many as eight wins and also throw 20 or more TD passes. Dalton also became the first NFL rookie to start every game of a 16-game regular season, much less start 16 and lead his team to the playoffs.
Dalton's 20 TD passes were a Bengals rookie record, and in four of the nine victories he started, he led the team back from a fourth-quarter deficit.
Dalton and A.J. Green are the first Bengals rookies to make the Pro Bowl since WR Cris Collinsworth in the 1981 season.
Atkins is the first Bengals defensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl since NT Tim Krumrie in the 1988 season.
Atkins led the Bengals in sacks (7.5) in the '11 regular season, and he tied for the NFL lead among interior linemen. He was the first interior lineman to lead the Bengals in sacks since 1996, when DT Dan Wilkinson led with 6.5.
Atkins tied for the team lead in combined fumbles forced/recovered (four), and he had a fumble return for a touchdown.
Gresham finished second on the Bengals in the regular season in receptions (56), and he was tied for second in touchdowns (six). He was third on the team in receiving yards (596). He is the first Bengals TE to make the Pro Bowl since the 1990 season, when Rodney Holman qualified.
This year's Pro Bowl will be played in Honolulu, with kickoff next Sunday at 7 p.m. EST.