Five Bears to go Pro Bowling
Five Bears received special post-Christmas presents Wednesday — Pro Bowl berths.
But another got the equivalent of a lump of coal.
The celebrating quintet includes defensive Julius Peppers, who was voted to his eighth Pro Bowl; wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who made it for the fourth time in five years; cornerback Charles Tillman, going for the second straight season; and defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Tim Jennings, who are in for the first time.
All five were voted in as starters.
Linebacker Lance Briggs did not make it after seven straight Pro Bowl nods.
"It's been a long journey from playing running back (at Texas) and defensive end (the position he was drafted at) and now being a Pro Bowl defensive tackle," Melton said. "There are a lot of people who had a hand in helping me, and I just appreciate it."
One of them is Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who saw in the young 265-pound Melton the skills that could be developed into a quality 3-technique tackle, who has bulked up to 295.
"I just wanted to help the defense any way I could," Melton said, "and when (Marinelli) said I had the stuff that he looks for in a premier defensive tackle, I listened to him and just got to work. If he saw me as an elite defensive tackle — he's seen everybody, (Warren) Sapp and a lot of guys that had come before me — and for him to say that, I believed in what he was saying."
Melton had 7 sacks last season and has 6 this season despite missing the past two games with a clavicle injury. Since the start of the 2011, only the Bengals' Geno Atkins has more sacks than Melton among tackles.
But he said he wasn't thinking about the Pro Bowl when the season started.
"It really wasn't even on my mind, and then the (fan) voting came out (last week), and I was like, 'Oh, I guess people are liking what I'm doing out there,' " said the 2009 fourth-round pick. "It's just an awesome feeling."
From opening day, when he picked off 2 passes, cornerback Tim Jennings showed signs that it would be a special season.
He's had two more 2-pick games since then and has an NFL-best 8, to go along with his first Pro Bowl, even though he recently missed two games with a separated shoulder.
In his six previous NFL seasons, Jennings had a total of 7 interceptions, when he frequently failed to hang on to the balls that he was in position to intercept. But, since the end of last season, he has worked overtime to improve his pass catching, which was evident in some of the spectacular picks he made this season.
"I really just worked on drills, ball skills, catching the ball," the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Jennings said. "I feel like I was always in good position last year, but I just wasn't coming up with the takeaways that I should have. "I've really been harping on trying to catch the ball and just believing in what I see. Some of the plays I also hesitate trying to get into the route and getting to the football. I just went out there and if I saw it, I believed it, and I just was going to take it."
Most people think of defensive Ndamukong Suh when talk turns to dirty play and the Lions. But Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton says the NFC North foe has some chippy players on the other side of the ball as well.
"They're dirty," Melton said. "They've always been a dirty team since I've been here. I don't like them. They're going to be looking for cheap shots and all that mess. You just have to hold our composure and play the game we know."
The Bears and Lions were involved in a melee last season and cornerback D.J. Moore was ejected.
"They just try to do all this extra stuff, talking little cheap shots," Melton said. "If you look at the tape, they've always thrown cheap shots. It is what it is; I'm ready."
Melton says the worst offender is 11-year veteran center Dominic Raiola.
"He's old and he just talks," Melton said. "He's more just cuss words and bad language, but then he'll throw some cheap shots in there."
Linebackers Brian Urlacher (hamstring) and Blake Costanzo (calf), cornerback Charles Tillman (ribs), running backs Matt Forte (ankle) and Armando Allen (knee) and safety Chris Conte did not practice Wednesday inside the Walter Payton Center.
Defensive tackle Henry Melton (clavicle) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (hamstring) were limited.
Safety in numbers:
Safety Troy Nolan was added to the roster to add depth with starting free safety Chris Conte not expected to play Sunday with a hamstring injury and top backup Craig Steltz on injured reserve.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Nolan has started seven games over four seasons with the Texans (2009-12) and Dolphins (2012).
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