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Jackson, Ravens making best of AFC's Pro Bowl clash with NFC

Jackson, Ravens making best of AFC's Pro Bowl clash with NFC
Representative Image Image Credit: Flickr

Admittedly, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson would rather be preparing for the Super Bowl. But the talented 23-year-old has embraced this weekend despite his team's disappointing playoff exit. He will be one of a league-high 12 Ravens who are expected to play in the Pro Bowl on Sunday afternoon in Orlando, Fla.

It will mark Jackson's first Pro Bowl appearance as he represents the AFC in its annual contest against the NFC. "He's just a special player, a special dude," said Ravens running back Mark Ingram II, who also will play in the game.

"An elite athlete on the field, a great person off the field. Humble. Hard worker. Leadership. Everything you need in a franchise quarterback, he has it. I'm glad to be with him." The Ravens had a 13th player named to the Pro Bowl, but cornerback Marcus Peters declined to take part in the game because of an unspecified injury. The 13 selections overall matched the 2007 Dallas Cowboys for the all-time record.

Others joining Jackson and Ingram include offensive linemen Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, and Orlando Brown, as well as tight end Mark Andrews and fullback Patrick Ricard. The Ravens' defensive contingent in the Pro Bowl includes safety Earl Thomas III, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and linebacker Matthew Judon. Kicker Justin Tucker and long-snapper Morgan Cox round out the Ravens who spent the week in Orlando.

"It'll be fun, and it'll be a chance for us to kind of maybe heal up a little bit in a great environment," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters. "I don't know how many of these guys really like roller coasters, but I know for me and my family, we will be at the roller coasters at Universal (Studios) a lot." As the Ravens' offense leads the AFC, the Minnesota Vikings' defense will lead the NFC.

The Vikings have eight players in the Pro Bowl, including five on defense. That group includes defensive linemen Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen upfront, linebacker Eric Kendricks patrolling the middle, and safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes assisting the secondary. Kendricks led the Vikings with 110 tackles during a career-best season. He added two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in the regular season and intercepted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the playoffs, and he was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection.

"I've always known I can do it," Kendricks told reporters after being named a first-team All-Pro. "There's just more that I want and more that I'm after. It's definitely nice to get the validation. At the same time, that's not what I'm focused on." The game will not include any players from the 49ers or the Kansas City Chiefs as they get ready for the Super Bowl one week later. But plenty of star playmakers fill both the AFC and NFC rosters.

Besides Jackson, the AFC's quarterback contingent includes Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans and Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans. Tannehill replaced the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes. The NFC's signal-callers include Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Kirk Cousins of the Vikings. Cousins replaced injured rival Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

The AFC has won the last three Pro Bowls since the format returned to a traditional conference matchup.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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