Cromartie, Dielman among eight Chargers headed to Pro Bowl

SAN DIEGO -- Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie was out looking at houses when he found another new home: He's going to the 2008 Pro Bowl, based on the strength of his NFL-leading 10 interceptions.

"I feel good. I can't stop smiling right now," he said Tuesday. "I called my mom any everybody else to let them know."

Cromartie is one of eight players from the AFC West champion Chargers who are going to the Pro Bowl. The others are running back LaDainian Tomlinson, fullback Lorenzo Neal, tight end Antonio Gates, guard Kris Dielman, defensive tackle Jamal Williams, linebacker Shawne Merriman and special teams ace Kassim Osgood.

Tomlinson, Neal and Gates were selected as starters. Cromartie and Dielman are going for the first time.

Four other Chargers could still make the trip. Punter Mike Scifres was voted the first alternate. Center Nick Hardwick, offensive tackle Marcus McNeill and return specialist Darren Sproles received enough votes to earn second-alternate positions.

Tomlinson earned his fifth Pro Bowl berth, Gates his fourth straight and Merriman and Williams, their third straight.

Cromartie broke a 46-year-old Chargers record with his 10th interception in Sunday's 51-14 win over Detroit. His 10 interceptions have come in the past nine games, and he's been a starter for the past six. He intercepted Peyton Manning three times in a win over the Colts on Nov. 11.

He also had the longest play in NFL history on Nov. 4, taking a missed field goal and returning it 109 yards for a touchdown during a loss at Minnesota.

"I don't even know what to say now. I'm just trying to enjoy it and keep it going," Cromartie said. "It's a great thing. It's been my goal since I came in as a rookie last year. It's one more step to another goal. It's been a great accomplishment and I'm planning on many more."

Tomlinson is impressed with Cromartie.

"What he has done this year really proves he is an elite corner in this league," Tomlinson said Monday. "Any time you get 10 picks, that is special. He is an exciting player."

The hard-nosed Dielman could have left for more money as an unrestricted free agent, but chose to remain in San Diego, signing a $39 million contract in March.

"It's just the right place at the right time," said Dielman, a converted defensive lineman. "I've had some great coaches in the past few years to teach me how to play O-line and thanks for the Chargers for being patient with me and staying strong with me. I'm speechless."

Dielman was watching "The Price is Right" when offensive line coach Hal Hunter called with the news.

"It's awesome," Dielman said. "L.T., Lorenzo, Shawne Merriman and all these guys -- these guys are ballers. They play hard. It's an honor to be in it. I've never been in an All-Star football game."

Neal broke his right leg in a win at Tennessee on Dec. 9, but said he should be able to play in the Pro Bowl. He hopes to be able to play in San Diego's first playoff game, which will be Jan. 5 or 6. Tuesday was the first day he was able to walk without a protective boot.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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