Redskins' Taylor among 2008 Pro Bowl selections

WASHINGTON -- Sean Taylor's selection to the Pro Bowl was supposed to be a crowning moment during a season in which he became a truly dominant NFL safety.

Instead, it's a tribute to a player who was tragically lost from the game at age 24.

The Washington Redskins safety was selected as an NFC representative to the 2008 Pro Bowl on Tuesday, three weeks after he was fatally wounded in a shooting at his home in Miami. Taylor was chosen as the conference's top free safety in balloting by coaches, players and fans.

"It is well-deserved," center Casey Rabach said. "If he would have been able to finish the season, he would have been in there. It just shows the respect everybody around the league had for him and what a great player he was."

Taylor is believed to be the second person elected posthumously to an all-star game in a major American professional sports league. Philadelphia Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh was voted by fans to start in the 1986 NHL All-Star game after he was killed in an automobile accident on Nov. 11, 1985.

Taylor led the NFC with five interceptions at the time of his death, even though he had missed the previous two games because of a knee injury. He also was leading the Pro Bowl voting among fans at the time.

But the numbers don't come close to vouching for Taylor's vast improvement this season.

In his first three years in the NFL, he would mix big hits with big mistakes. He led the league in missed tackles last year, but his bone-jarring hits intimidated receivers so much that he was chosen as a first alternate to the Pro Bowl. He then got to play in the game after another player withdrew.

This year, Taylor was allowed to roam the field as a true free safety, a hard-hitting ball hawk whose speed made anything deep virtually off limits to the offense. Before his knee injury, the Redskins had allowed only 21 plays of 20-plus yards over 8 3/4 games.

"You're talking about one of the best safeties in the league," cornerback Fred Smoot said after Taylor's injury. "Just by his presence in the middle, people don't try the middle. We miss him tremendously."

Two other Redskins were voted to the Pro Bowl, which will be played Feb. 10 in Hawaii. Tight end Chris Cooley was selected for the first time, while left tackle Chris Samuels will be making his fifth trip.

Cooley leads the Redskins in receptions (60), yards receiving (711) and touchdowns catches (seven). A third-round draft choice in 2004, Cooley signed a six-year, $30 contract extension before the start of this season.

Samuels, the No. 3 overall pick in 2000, made his previous appearances in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006. Although he missed most of training camp with a knee injury, Samuels has been a stabilizing force on an offensive line that lost right tackle Jon Jansen and right guard Randy Thomas to season-ending injuries.

Fullback Mike Sellers was selected as a first alternate. Kick returner Rock Cartwright and running back Clinton Portis are second alternates. Linebacker London Fletcher and safety LaRon Landry are third alternates.

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