Asomugha, Lechler make Pro Bowl

December 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The Oakland Raiders have nearly as many Pro Bowlers as wins this season.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler were picked for the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, a small dose of good news for the Raiders in another disappointing season.

The Raiders (3-11) became the first team to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons but had multiple Pro Bowlers for the first time since getting five players picked in 2002.

"We talked about this a couple of weeks ago at practice. It's probably only going to be one of us," Lechler said. "So to get the news today that it was both of us to go and represent the Raiders, it was a good feeling.

"Like I said, I've been there, three times. Two times it was just me, and you get hit with all the questions like, 'How is it in Oakland?' and, 'What's going on?' and this and that. Now Nnamdi can answer all those questions."

Asomugha made the Pro Bowl for the first time in six seasons, having been an alternate the last two seasons. Asomugha had a breakthrough season in 2006, with eight interceptions. Since then, opponents have usually shied away from Asomugha in Oakland's traditional man-to-man defense.

Asomugha has had just 26 passes thrown his way this season, allowing 12 completions for 147 yards and no touchdowns and getting high praise from opponents each week. He also has one interception and nine pass defenses this season.

"It's really refreshing when you get these types of moments when people can say, 'Yeah, you're one of the best."' Asomugha said. "It's not about the start and the finish it was everything in between that kind of makes you feel good about the journey."

Lechler made his fourth Pro Bowl, leading the AFC with a 48.8 yard average on punts this season. He was second in net average to San Diego's Mike Scifres at 41.3 yards. Lechler set an NFL record last season with a 41.1 yard average.

"Any time you get voted in by your peers and they respect what you do, and they truly congratulate you, it's not a grudge deal, it feels good," Lechler said. "I've had numerous calls today, been on the phone all morning with people. And it still feels like the first time."

Both Lechler and Asomugha will be eligible for free agency after the season, putting pressure on the Raiders to retain both of them.

The Raiders placed the exclusive franchise tag on Asomugha last season, giving him a $9.765 million contract. The Raiders could try to sign Asomugha to a long-term deal after the season or choose to use the franchise tag again, which would guarantee him about $11.7 million in 2009.


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