As they look back on the first Pro Bowl appearances of their careers, Redskins linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Ryan Kerrigan both named the camaraderie they enjoyed as the top highlight of the week in Honolulu.
Each player brought his immediate family with him to Hawaii. But in addition to practicing and going to various appearances with their fellow Pro Bowl players, they had enough down time to get to know players they hadn’t previously met.
“It was great, a lot of fun, and I got to play with a lot of guys from around the league,” said Alexander, who made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player. “But the coolest part was getting to know guys on a personal level. Everybody out there was real cool.
“Had a good time with [Minnesota’s] Jared Allen, seeing how silly he really is,” Alexander added. “Chad Greenway from Green Bay was cool. Getting to know Earl Thomas from Seattle was good. That secondary in Seattle gets a bad rap, but he was actually a real cool guy.”
Kerrigan agreed with Alexander’s assessment.
“It was an awesome week because you get to know guys,” the second-year pro said. “You see them on TV all the time, but you don’t really know them. Just getting to hang out by the pool, and talk to them, and see everybody’s just real humble, and just like you, it was pretty cool.”
Kerrigan said he was most impressed with how “normal” Peyton Manning was.
“You see him on TV, doing all these commercials, and you actually talk to him and see, ‘Wow, he’s a regular guy, just like me.’”
Alexander wound up playing extensively at inside linebacker as well as on special teams. He said it became apparent early in the week that he would get a chance to play on defense as well. He made the most of the opportunity by leading the NFC with five tackles.
“It was pretty easy, picking up a different defense,” Alexander said. “We only had four calls. Two were Cover-3, and the other two were man. I just tried to find the right tempo, which is kind of hard when you’re a high-motor guy. Everybody played with better effort than last year, but we weren’t going all-out, either. But we played with a good tempo. … It was fun. It’s obviously something I want to come back to.”
Kerrigan’s Pro Bowl selection came as a complete surprise.
When the teams were announced on Dec. 26, he wasn’t picked as a starter or reserve, and no one informed him that he was an alternate.
On Jan. 20, he was home in Indiana, getting ready to go to a friend’s house to watch the New England-Baltimore game, when he realized he had a missed call from his agent.
Kerrigan listened to his agent congratulate him for making the Pro Bowl as an alternate because the San Francisco 49ers had won and two of their linebackers would be heading to the Super Bowl instead.
“It was probably about as confused as I’ve ever been in my life,” Kerrigan said. “It was pretty hectic. I packed my stuff in Indiana and flew back to Virginia the next day to get some stuff, and then flew out to Hawaii.”
In the game, Kerrigan had to adjust to a new role. Primarily used to pass-rushing, he instead was used almost exclusively to cover tight ends down the field. He also lined up at inside linebacker at times.
“I felt like a fish out of water,” he said. “I played off the ball the entire time except for a couple times.”
But Kerrigan came away from Hawaii with new motivation.
”It made me realize that I want to get used to playing football at this time of year, whether it’s in Hawaii, or in the playoffs,” he said. “It was definitely nice being in the Pro Bowl, but I certainly would’ve preferred to be in New Orleans getting ready for the Super Bowl now.”