Ravens wish Koch was headed to Hawaii

The Ravens had five players make the Pro Bowl, but many in the locker room feel like a sixth Raven should be going to Hawaii, as well.

Punter Sam Koch led the fan voting for the Pro Bowl, but when the players' and coaches' votes were added in, he was bumped out by the Raiders' Shane Lechler. Koch was selected as a first alternate, and will go to the Pro Bowl should Lechler not be able to attend because of injury.

Koch ranks second in the NFL in punts inside the 20, and has only had four punts result in touchbacks, numbers which left his teammates and coaches talking about how the punter deserved to be joining Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Billy Cundiff and Terrell Suggs on the AFC's all-star roster.


"Sam Koch for sure has had a Pro Bowl year," head coach John Harbaugh said. "Some of the things that Sam does are unrecognized by voters sometimes. He doesn't have the huge gross, but he kicks directionally, he puts it out of bounds 40-45 yards on a pretty regular basis. The pooch punting has been phenomenal. I would say he is deserving."

Asked whether he felt he was snubbed, the always humble Koch opted to heap praise on Lechler.

"I don't know. Lechler's been there," Koch said. "This will be his sixth year, (he's) well-deserving of it. He's a great punter. It's hard to beat out a great punter. He's got great numbers. I wish we could be there, me and Billy both. It's an honor to be a first alternate. So I will take that. If things don't work out with Lechler and they call me up, that's even better. It's a great honor."

As it turns out, Koch will actually get to make the trip to Hawaii, assuming the Ravens don't go to the Super Bowl. Cundiff has decided to take Koch and his wife with him to the Pro Bowl, so the two special teamers can experience the event together.

It's a nice gesture by the first-time Pro Bowler.

Two other Ravens joined Koch as first alternates - fullback Le'Ron McClain and guard Ben Grubbs.

McClain, who had made the Pro Bowl the previous two years, was beat out by Texans fullback Vonta Leach for the lone fullback spot on the AFC roster. Leach paved the way for running back Arian Foster this season, and Foster currently leads the league in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

"Very disappointed about that, but I can't do nothing about it. I got no control over it," McClain said. "All props to him, Vonta Leach, but I'm just hard on myself. I feel like I'm supposed to be in there, hands down. This pretty much, I think, has been my best year, blocking-wise. I didn't touch the ball like I would like to, but I'm good with it. Something to build on, man."

This is the second year in a row that Grubbs is barely on the outside of the Pro Bowl roster looking in. The Ravens left guard was selected as a first alternate last year, and he's back in that group again this year.

"I'm definitely appreciative of being recognized," Grubbs said. "That definitely makes me feel good. But, at the same time, my goal every year is to be a starter (in the Pro Bowl), and anything less than that, it's something I'll continue to work at."

Personally, I think outside linebacker Jarret Johnson was another Raven that got snubbed. I don't think Johnson should necessarily have made the Pro Bowl roster, especially considering that his numbers are down this year (he has 70 tackles and 1.5 sacks on the season), but I'm surprised he wasn't named as an alternate at any level.

Johnson has played through injuries, performed well on the field and is well-respected throughout the league. He still flies under the radar, however, which is a shame. The guy deserves to head to Hawaii one of these years.

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