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Houston Texans

Ryans aiming for Pro Bowl


No linebacker in the NFL is more deserving of a Pro Bowl trip than DeMeco Ryans.

EDITOR'S NOTE: To send DeMeco Ryans and other Texans players to the 2008 Pro Bowl, please click ****here*** to vote.*

After last season, you couldn't have faulted DeMeco Ryans if he had sent a large message via e-mail, snail mail, Western Union, cell phone and UPS.

The message would have read in big bold letters – WHAT DOES IT TAKE?

Ryans is not that kind of loud person, though. So the Texans rookie linebacker sat back after the season and accepted his AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award with grace.

But what does it take to make the Pro Bowl?

That's what bothered Ryans, the Texans' sensational middle linebacker who might have been the best at his position in the league last year.

He certainly had the stats.

Ryans led the NFL with 126 solo tackles and led all rookies with 156 tackles, the most tackles by a first-year player in the last 20 years. He finished the season with nine double-digit tackle days.


Ryans was widely received as the league's best defensive rookie, but didn't make the trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, something he had trouble accepting.

"I was disappointed," Ryans said this week as the Texans prepare for the Saints this Sunday at Reliant Stadium. "I felt like I had a good enough season. In my opinion, I should have gone. But it's not in my hands.

"If I could vote for myself, I'd be voted in for a long time," he said with a laugh.

Ryans had to accept last season the reality and politics of the Pro Bowl. All of the best players don't always go. Reputation has a lot to do with it as does publicity. And how many wins a team has also figures in.

"I'm pretty sure it takes winning," Ryans said. "If your team wins, a lot of your guys go to the Pro Bowl. Look at San Diego last year. They had about nine guys go because they won a lot of games last year.

"It does take winning and it takes the stats and it takes just the notoriety, just being known."

{QUOTE}Has he reached that level?

"I don't know," Ryans said. "We'll see. We still have seven games left. There's no telling what could happen.

"It means a lot when your peers and fans vote you in. So if that time comes, I'll happily accept it."

Linebacker teammate Danny Clark thinks that time has come for Ryans, but he understands the system.

Clark, who led the Raiders in tackles with 129 in 2004 and 113 in 2005 and never reached the Pro Bowl, knows stats don't always do the job when it comes to being voted to the game.

"It's publicity," Clark said. "People have to know him. And we have to win. When those things happen, everybody eats off that."

Clark, an eight-year veteran, has seen plenty of Pro Bowlers and feels Ryans has done enough to make it this season.

"I definitely think he has," Clark said. "I take my hat off to DeMeco. He's one of my favorite guys in the league. It's just his second year, but look what he has done."

Ryans again leads the Texans in tackles this season, despite the fact a sore ankle has slowed his pace. His 74 total tackles is ninth in the NFL and his 63 solos is one off the highest total in the league, held by three players. In addition, Ryans' two sacks are the most among the top-10 tacklers in the NFL.

Yet according to the football blog, Pro Football Talk, the current leading Pro Bowl vote-getter among AFC inside linebackers is the New England Patriots' Tedy Bruschi, who has 30 fewer solo tackles than Ryans and has no interceptions, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles nor passes defensed this season.

Meanwhile, Ryans has one interception, four passes defensed, one forced fumble, three recovered fumbles and a touchdown through nine games.

"I think this season is going better than last year," Ryans said. "I got a little sidelined with a little ankle injury. But it's been going pretty good for most of the season."

Ryans now hopes that his first goal – winning some games – can kick in. But he knows that losing cornerback Dunta Robinson, another Texan having a Pro Bowl-like season, to season-ending knee surgery will make that difficult for the Texans. Everyone on the defense will need to step up now.

"We're waiting to see how it's going to turn out," Ryans said. "I don't know, I couldn't tell you. Dunta, he brought a lot of fire to our defense. I expect every Sunday, I know he's going to come up and make a big play for us, big hits – every week I expect that from him. But it's up in the air what we're going to see with our new guys out there.

"We have to step it up every week, but definitely I think we're going to have to step it up in the secondary because he's the leader back there that everyone counted on and to lose one of your top guys, that's tough.

"You can tell when we lost (wide receiver) Andre (Johnson), we had guys stepping up, but it's still not like having Andre in there. So it's always tough when you lose one of your top guys."

Ryans is still the top guy on the Texans' defense and he hopes that translates into one of his primary professional goals this season.

"That would mean everything to make the Pro Bowl," Ryans said. "That's one of the biggest accomplishments you can get as a player. Just to get on this level, to be playing in the NFL, is living the dream.

"But then to become one of the elite players and to be selected to the Pro Bowl, I think that's the ultimate honor."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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