<span style=""> <span style="text-decoration: underline;">FIVE PLAYERS HONORED WITH PRO BOWL NOMINATIONS</span> <span style="">Saints Represented By Brees, Sharper, Evans, Vilma and Stinchcomb; Most Saints to be Named to Pro Bowl since 1992
Brees, Sharper and Evans Named to Starting Squad
Five members of the New Orleans Saints 2009 team have been voted to the NFC Pro Bowl squad. QB Drew Brees, FS Darren Sharper, RG Jahri Evans, MLB Jonathan Vilma and RT Jon Stinchcomb were voted by a combination of fan, player and coaches balloting. The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 31, 2010 in South Florida. Teams that earn a berth into the Super Bowl will not be sending players to play in the contest.
QB Drew Brees has been selected to appear in his fourth Pro Bowl, having led the Saints to a team-record 13 wins in 2009. Brees has completed 363-of-514 passes (70.6%) for 4,388 yards with 34 touchdowns, only 11 interceptions and a 109.6 passer rating.
"It's a tremendous honor to be voted to the Pro Bowl and I'm thankful to the players, coaches and fans who voted for me," said Brees. "When you are voted in as a quarterback, you really represent the entire offense and the team, because there isn't anything I can accomplish without the offensive line, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. So this is a recognition of what we've been able to achieve as a unit, and I've been thrilled to be a part of a offense that has worked together so well this season."
Brees is currently ranked first in the NFL in completion percentage, passer rating, touchdown passes and touchdown percentage (6.6), second in average gain (8.5 yards per completion), completions of 25 yards of more (39) and fourth quarter passer rating (113.4), third in passing yardage and fifth in third down passer rating (101.9).
Brees is currently on pace for the second-highest passing yardage total of his NFL career behind 2008's 5,069 yards and is only the second NFL player to throw for 4,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.
Brees has been selected to play in two Pro Bowls as a Saint prior to this season, with one other appearance coming as a member of the San Diego Chargers. He and Archie Manning are the only two Saints signal callers to be selected to the All-Star game in the team's history, with Brees now becoming the first quarterback to represent the team three times.
Free Safety Darren Sharper, a free agent acquisition in March, is the NFL's active leader with 63 interceptions, which places him in a tie for sixth all-time with Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. Sharper will be headed to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in his career, in large part to his NFL-best nine interceptions in 2009, which he has returned for an NFL-record 376 yards.
"This means a lot to me because it's voted on by my peers, the coaches around the NFL and the fans," said Sharper. "And it means a lot to me to be voted to the Pro Bowl as a player who is representing the Saints organization. This is a reflection of what we have achieved as a team. Being voted to the Pro Bowl is a prestigious honor, and I'm very excited about it, and my real goal is to make it a precursor to what I came here for – and that's going to the bigger Bowl."
The 13-year NFL veteran has appeared in 196 regular season games with 180 starts and has extensive postseason experience in ten games, seven of which he opened. The consistent tackler has posted 75 or more stops 11 times. Sharper is ranked second among all-time in interception return yardage with 1,412 yards.
His nine interceptions this season has tied his career-high for most interceptions in a season, including two multiple interception games. He has also established a career-high and club record three interceptions returned for touchdowns, while adding 93 tackles (55 solo), half-a-sack and eight passes defensed.
Fourth-year offensive guard Jahri Evans, a product of Bloomsburg (Pa.) University, and a fixture on the Saints' offensive line since the first game of his rookie season (2006) earned his first career nomination to the Pro Bowl. The 6-4, 318 pound native of Philadelphia has been a lynchpin along the Saints' offensive line, never missing a start during his first four years.
"I think this is an award that all of the offensive linemen really share," said Evans. "Our offensive line has pretty much been together since I got here and I am very fortunate to have learned from great coaches and my teammates. It's always been a goal of mine to earn the highest award that is voted on by the fellow players, coaches and fans, and I am very thankful to everyone that thought highly enough of me to vote for me."
Evans has also been a fixture on an offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks in the NFC and the second-least in the NFL since 2006 (67). In 2009 the Saints once again are among the league leaders in fewest sacks allowed (15-the third fewest).
Evans owns the distinction of having started 63 consecutive games, a club-record for most consecutive games started by a Saints offensive lineman to begin a career, and the third-most by a player of any position, trailing only LB Rickey Jackson (91) and DT Bob Pollard (78).
Middle Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2005 as a member of the New York Jets, was elected by his teammates the defensive team captain for the 2009 season. Vilma leads the Saints with 130 tackles (102 solo), two quarterback takedowns, three interceptions that him tie for first in the NFL among linebackers and eight passes defensed.
"It's an honor to be voted by the fans of the New Orleans Saints, the players in the NFL and the coaches and general managers," Vilma said. "The unfortunate thing about the Pro Bowl is that it honors individuals and this, in my opinion, is really a team award because every guy on our team has had a hand in our success this season and we certainly hope to be have a lot more to play for this season. That's where our focus is right now and getting ready for the Carolina Panthers this weekend."
Vilma has registered six-double digit tackle games thus far this season, including a season-high 15 stops against Dallas two weeks ago.
Vilma, a native of South Florida and a graduate of the University of Miami, acquired by the Saints in a trade with the New York Jets in 2008, has recorded 741 tackles (514 solo), ten interceptions, 5.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 30 pass defenses, starting 84 of the 86 games he has appeared in. Vilma has recorded at least 100 tackles in five of his first six NFL campaigns, only missing out in 2007 due to a knee injury.
Right Tackle Jon Stinchcomb, a seven-year veteran and a fixture on the Saints' offensive line the past four seasons, earned his first career Pro Bowl nomination.
"It is a pretty special award to be voted to the Pro Bowl," said the 6-5, 318 pound Georgia graduate who was selected by the Saints in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft with the 37th pick overall. "To those that took the time to vote for me, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks. And I owe a debt of gratitude to the players, coaches and administrators that felt I was deserving of this recognition."
The Saints' 2008 Man of the Year for his community activism has started every game for the Saints this season at right tackle and helped the Saints produce the top-ranked offense and highest-scoring offense in the NFL, while allowing the third-fewest sacks and featuring a running game that is the fifth-most productive in the NFL.