NFL: Seymour heads into free agency as Pro Bowler |

NFL: Seymour heads into free agency as Pro Bowler

AP Sports Writer

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – Richard Seymour says it’s an honor to go to the Pro Bowl for the first time with the Oakland Raiders. Whether that is his last time wearing a Raiders helmet remains to be seen.

Seymour was one of three Raiders selected for the Pro Bowl, joining cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler. Seymour made a big impact in his second season in Oakland after being acquired in a trade from New England. He has 5 1/2 sacks and has provided leadership for a young defense that features two rookies starting in the front seven.

Seymour played this season under the $12.398 million franchise tag. He is eligible to be a free agent once a new labor deal is reached and said he is open to returning if he is wanted.

“It’s a great place to play,” he said. “The fans are unlike any others in the league. They’re definitely committed, and they want the same type players to play in this organization. The history of being here, the mystique of putting that silver and black on and representing the Raiders, it’s been a lifelong dream for me and, hopefully, it continues.”

Along with having three players named to the original Pro Bowl team for the first time since their 2002 AFC championship team, the Raiders also had four alternates picked for the game in Honolulu in kicker Sebastian Janikowski, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, running back Darren McFadden and tight end Zach Miller.

That increased respect is a sign of progress for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season in eight years. The Raiders (7-8) are hoping to end a string of seven straight losing seasons by winning at Kansas City in the season finale on Sunday.

“I think that people recognize that we’re a more talented team,” coach Tom Cable said. “Obviously, that shows that guys went out and performed at a pretty high level. I would like to see more, but that will happen as you start to win more and you become a playoff team those kinds of things will happen more and more. I’m proud of all of them, but I just think it says, ‘Hey, we’re better and we have guys playing better.”‘

Asomugha got picked for the third straight season despite having no interceptions, 19 tackles and six passes defensed in 13 games. He is so respected by opponents that they rarely even throw in his direction.

According to STATS LLC, Asomugha has had 32 passes thrown his way, with only 13 being completed for 205 yards and no touchdowns.

“It says a lot about the respect that you have around the league,” he said. “I’ve been measured a little differently from other guys just because I don’t get as many opportunities as they do. So, there’s other factors like, what were the completions and that sort of thing. I’ve still been able to hold my own pretty well with that, so it means a lot.”

Lechler made his sixth Pro Bowl despite having a slightly down year from his normally lofty standards. His 47.0 yard gross average was his lowest since 2005 and his 40.6 yard net average was his worst since 2006.

Those numbers were still tops in the AFC, trailing only Dallas’ Mat McBriar for the top marks in the NFL.

“My hat’s off to my punt team,” Lechler said. “They played their butts off for me this year. The numbers weren’t record-setting by any means, but we’re top in the AFC in net and gross right now. Those guys come out and practice hard every day. I very much respect what they do, and I’m glad to be just a part of that punt team.”

Lechler was disappointed that his kicking cohort Janikowski was only an alternate despite leading the NFL with 135 points, including a league-tying four field goals of at least 50 yards. He made two long ones last week, including a 59-yarder that is tied for the eighth longest ever.

Three of Janikowski’s eight misses came on attempts of at least 50 yards, but it was one of his shorter kicks that was most painful for the Raiders. He missed a 32-yarder at the end of a 24-23 loss at Arizona in Week 3 that haunted the Raiders all season.

“Not to have Seabass after the year he’s had, that’s very disappointing,” Lechler said. “I know he’s disappointed. I’m disappointed for him. There would be a whole lot of head coaches around the league I guarantee would take him. They won’t say it to their guys face, but they would take him over their guy right now. That’s just how it is. That’s how good he is.”