The fact that the Pro Bowl takes place a week before the Super Bowl means no player really wants to be available for the game itself, but that doesn't mean players don't care about Pro Bowl recognition.
A day after the 2016 Pro Bowl squad was announced Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and players reacted to that news that quarterback Russell Wilson, return specialist Tyler Lockett, defensive end Michael Bennett, linebacker Bobby Wagner, cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were all named to the team, matching the franchise record of seven Pro Bowlers. Doug Baldwin, Steven Hauschka, Cliff Avril, Russell Okung and Marshawn Lynch were also named Pro Bowl alternates.
"I think that's something to be appreciated by all of us," Carroll said. "Those guys that are returning have been able to maintain the level of play to get recognized, and the first-time guys like Michael Bennett and Tyler Lockett, to get in the first time for them. It's interesting on different ends—Mike, later in his career, and Tyler right at the start of it. With gratitude, we take it. There's a lot of guys in here that were responsible for that. Our players know that. The guys they work against every day, the standard that's set that they perform at and practice at. Dealing with everybody that contributes to that, there's just a lot of room for gratitude around here. It's pretty impressive to have that many guys on the defensive side go and, of course, Russell to go again, that's really cool. I think also the recognition that there's five other guys too that got recognized as guys that could possibly wind up in the game. I know that came about. That's exciting."
Carroll was also excited for the alternates, both because they got some form of recognition, and because when all is said and done, there's a decent chance they can add a Pro Bowl to their résumés depending on how things shake out.
"Cliff we know is having an extraordinary year, so he gets recognized really for the first time with Pro Bowl recognition," Carroll said. "He would be great in that game, and he would show everybody that he belongs in all of that. It's pretty exciting to see that… Doug is a first time guy. We talk about it in here, that you get recognized, that you get called out for what you've done, whether you're playing in the game or whether you're one of the other guys. It's often those guys that come in as the alternates make a lot of plays in those games and do some good things. It could be. I think this time we're just trying to demonstrate the gratitude and appreciate the fact that they got recognized."
Wagner expressed gratitude for his second straight Pro Bowl selection, but pointed out he has no intent on playing in the game.
"We appreciate it a lot, we're very grateful for it," he said. "I feel like everybody feels the same way. We're happy that we got voted in, and we appreciate the fans and everything. But I feel like our goals our loftier, and we're looking forward to continuing the season and hopefully make it to the Super Bowl.
"It's a special thing. Like I said, we're grateful for it. But I feel like we think big. We want to be in San Francisco, not Hawaii."
Sherman, meanwhile, was more focused on sticking up for his teammates who had to settle for being alternates, or who missed the cut all together, such as linebacker K.J. Wright, who leads the team in tackles, but who as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, is competing for postseason honors with 3-4 linebackers who can pile up big sack totals as pass rushers.
"I still think Doug Baldwin should have made it," Sherman said. "Steven Hauschka has been an alternate for three years. K.J. Wright is having the best year of his life, you would think he would make it. But with the way they're judging D-ends and linebackers now, a lot of these linebackers play end and rush the passer most of the time, and are counted as a linebacker. So it kind of hurts his case, but I wish he would have made it."
Everyone asked about the Pro Bowl seemed especially happy for Bennett, who has been one of the most important players on Seattle's defense for three seasons, but who was honored for the first time this season after collecting a career-best 9.5 sacks in his first 14 games.
"Mike's been playing at a high level for a very, very long time," Sherman said. "So I'm extremely happy for him finally getting the recognition he deserves."
Added Avril: "I'm happy for him. He deserves it, he's been playing lights out the last few years, and it's about time he gets that recognition."
Avril would love to have been honored along with Bennett, but his first time being a Pro Bowl alternate still means something: "It's my first time even being that close, so that's pretty cool. Hopefully we're in the Super Bowl so we don't have to worry about it."
Bennett, who lives in Hawaii during the offseason, jokingly downplayed the honor, saying, "I go to the Pro Bowl every year. I live in Hawaii. I can see the Pro Bowl from my house, so it's the same old, same old."
Bennett, like Sherman, talked more about his teammates who were left on the team than his own inclusion on it.
"We've got a lot of guys who got a lot of notoriety this year, obviously because we're a great team and have a lot of great players," he said. "Of course there's guys who missed out like Cliff Avril. He has done so well this season, he's one of the best defensive players, if not the best defensive players. Brandon Mebane is playing at a high level, Baldwin, the list can go on and on. Sometimes people get overlooked, that's just how it is, but they're still playing great football, that doesn't take anything away from them."