Pro Bowl staple fourth in voting


Getty Images Photo by Craig Jones

Carolina's Todd Sauerbrun, who has gone to three straight Pro Bowls, is fourth in the NFC in net punting average.



By DARIN GANTT, The (Rock Hill, S.C.) Herald

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers punter Todd Sauerbrun is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against St. Louis because of a quadriceps strain, but he should be able to play.
Questionable would also describe his status for this year's Pro Bowl, where he had become an NFC staple but is on the verge of losing his spot.

Sauerbrun is fourth among NFC punters in fan voting for the all-star game, which will be played Feb. 13 in Honolulu.

Fan voting constitutes a third of the selection process, with coaches and other players making up the rest of the equation. That gives Sauerbrun a chance to return for his fourth straight year, though he'll have to come from behind.

Teams will be announced Dec. 22. Voting will continue on NFL.com, in stadiums and by wireless text messaging through Dec. 17.

New Orleans' Mitch Berger leads NFC punters in fan balloting with 143,182 votes. Berger is followed by Washington's Tom Tupa, Chicago's Brad Maynard and Sauerbrun, though league spokesmen did not give the vote totals for the trailing players.

Inertia factors heavily into Pro Bowl voting, as players who get to the game tend to go back again and again.

But despite Sauerbrun's recent appearances, the Panthers' slow start and a dip in his statistics contribute to his poor showing in fan voting.

He's second in the NFC in gross average (44.3 yards) and fourth in net average (37.6).

No Carolina player is on top of the fan balloting at his position. Defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Dan Morgan are third at their spots, the closest of any Panthers. Quarterback Jake Delhomme is 11th in fan voting among NFC quarterbacks.

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning leads all vote-getters, followed by Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb, Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper, Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens and New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.

INJURY UPDATE: Sauerbrun was one of four Panthers held out of practice Wednesday. Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner (knee) and right tackle Todd Fordham are listed as questionable, while Delhomme's listed as probable as he took his now-traditional day off to rest his broken right thumb.

Linebackers Brian Allen (pectoral) and Morgan (concussion) and special teams captain Karl Hankton (hamstring) are also listed as questionable, though they practiced.

Panthers coach John Fox again described Morgan's status as "day-to-day."

The middle linebacker has missed the last three starts after sustaining his second concussion of the season.

"I think we're a week further ahead than we were last week," Fox said. "He had a concussion and he needs to have rest. ...

"There's a stronger possibility of him going this week than there was last week. When [team doctors] say he's healthy, he'll play."

MORE HONORS: Kicker John Kasay, who had a team-record six field goals Sunday at New Orleans, was named NFC special teams player of the week.

Kasay had missed the previous two games with a right calf strain but was perfect from 30, 50, 46, 25, 21 and 21 yards. He had to wave the punt team off the field to hit the 50.

The honor continues a streak for the Panthers. Two weeks ago, running back Nick Goings was offensive player of the week, and end Julius Peppers was named defensive player of the month last week.