Ravens Sending Five Bowling

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For linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, the Pro Bowl may be old-hat.

But it's going to be a special first time for running back Ray Rice and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

The Ravens are sending five representatives to Miami for the Pro Bowl this year, with Rice and Ngata joining return honorees Lewis, Reed and fullback Le'Ron McClain.

Both newbies are excited for the opportunity.

"I've been working so hard to be one of the best ever since I entered the NFL," Ngata said. "This is unbelievably gratifying and a great honor. As a player in college, you just want to get to the league. If you're fortunate enough to make it to this level, everyone then dreams of going to the Pro Bowl."

In each year since the franchise came to Baltimore in 1996, the Ravens have had at least one member of the team in the Pro Bowl. Last season, McClain, Lewis and Reed went with linebacker Terrell Suggs and special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo.

The fact that Ngata and Rice finally earned recognition shows how each player is gaining respect around the NFL, as Pro Bowl balloting counts a third each from fans, coaches and players.

Ngata has been a staple of the defensive line by producing 40 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. With Ngata's help, the Ravens rank first in average yards allowed per rush (3.5).

"Without the other D-lineman on our team, I wouldn't be able to do the things I do," Ngata added. "I'm thankful for guys like Kelly Gregg, who has taught me so much about technique and been a great role model. Trevor PryceJustin Bannan and Dwan Edwards have helped me grow, and they push me every day.

"Coach [Clarence] Brooks is somebody who makes me better and constantly demands the best out of me. None of this is possible without any of these guys, so that's why this is a group award."

Rice is earning a reputation as one of the league's most explosive threats. With one game left on the year, Rice is second among all ballcarriers with 1,952 total yards from scrimmage. He leads the Ravens with 1,269 rushing yards (5.3 average per carry) and has 74 receptions for 683 yards.

Rice also owns eight combined touchdowns.

"This is such an honor," Rice stated. "Even though I'm going as an individual, I consider this a team award. I want to thank all my teammates and coaches who have made this possible. Growing up, I dreamed of playing in the NFL, but making the Pro Bowl is surreal.

"I've always played the game in hopes of earning other people's respect, and knowing that the fans, coaches and players voted for me is humbling. I promise to represent the Ravens organization and City of Baltimore by continuing to do nothing but my best."

As for Lewis, Reed and McClain, the experience will still be special, just not brand new.

After McClain went to his first Pro Bowl for leading the Ravens in rushing with 902 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008, he was voted back even though he moved to a more traditional fullback role. Still, McClain is a key cog in a rushing attack that averages 130.7 yards per game and has produced 39 touchdowns on the ground.

It will be the 11th Pro Bowl for Lewis and the sixth for Reed.

Lewis, in his 14th season, is having another outstanding season. He currently paces the Ravens with 152 tackles, adding three sacks, six passes defended and three forced fumbles.

The Ravens' second-ever draft pick also has recovered a fumble.

And despite missing Baltimore's last four contests, Reed still owns 51 tackles and three interceptions, including a 52-yard touchdown return.

While the Ravens are sending a few Pro Bowl rookies and a few veterans, Lewis said the experience is always memorable.

With another Pro Bowl under his belt, No. 52 reflected: "This is always an honor. I don't take it for granted. To be recognized by your peers, the coaches and the fans is a privilege."

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