All-Pro selections for 6 Colts ease sting of Pro Bowl snubs

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FILE – In this Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, Indianapolis Colts offensive guard Quenton Nelson (56) looks to block against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

INDIANAPOLIS – The snub(s) hit hard, and Bubba Ventrone didn’t mind pointing that out.

The Pro Bowl had just been announced last month, and one of Ventrone’s core special teams standouts – George Odom – was one of several Indianapolis Colts left off the all-star team.

The special teams coordinator was, well, upset.

“The Pro Bowl is . . . it is what it is,’’ Ventrone said with more than a hint of disgust. “I don’t even know why we vote for the Pro Bowl at times.

“I feel like the All-Pro is more deserving. It feels like (the Pro Bowl) is a popularity contest at times, but it is what it is.’’

A measure of validation was achieved Friday.

Odom, who led the NFL with 20 special teams tackles, was one of four Colts selected first-team All-Pro in a voting process carried out by 50 media members who regularly cover the league. The Pro Bowl is chosen by coaches, players and fans.

Joining Odom on the first team are guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Center Ryan Kelly and long-snapper Luke Rhodes are second-team selections.

The last time the Colts had four first-team selections was in 2005 with quarterback Peyton Manning, center Jeff Saturday, defensive end Dwight Freeney and safety Bob Sanders.

Ventrone always has endorsed Odom’s value.

“He should without doubt be All-Pro,’’ he said. “He’s contributed a lot to our unit and our unit has contributed to a lot of wins for this team.

“It’s a testament to him for his effort. George is a team player, too. He does everything that we ask him to do for the team. He is a selfless player, plays with injury and he has done a good job. He’s a fighter.’’

Buckner’s All-Pro recognition comes after what was viewed as a massive Pro Bowl snub.

Coordinator Matt Eberflus attempted to put the oversight in perspective last month, but still was disappointed.

“I would say it happens,’’ he offered. “I’ve had guys in the past not make it and then I’ve also had guys not make the (Pro Bowl) – like Darius. I had another linebacker at a previous stop that didn’t make the Pro Bowl but made the All-Pro team which is voted on by y’all, the media and guys that are selected to vote on the All-Pro team.

“That’s more of a prestigious honor and I certainly think he’ll probably get that I would imagine because he is one of the best defensive linemen in football. I’m looking forward to that, and if he doesn’t get it, he doesn’t get it, but I think he’s certainly worthy of that.’’

Buckner and the Los Angeles Rams Aaron Donald were the interior linemen selected.

Buckner was the most significant offseason acquisition by general manager Chris Ballard, who sent the San Francisco 49ers the 13th overall pick in the April draft for the missing piece of the Colts’ defense. Ballard then signed Buckner to a four-year, $84 million extension.

Buckner’s first season in Indy was as impactful as anticipated. He led the defense with 9.5 sacks, a team record by an interior lineman and second to Donald’s 13.5, and added 10 tackles for loss. Only Donald (14) and Miami’s Zach Sieler (11) had more tackles for loss.

Buckner’s goal always has been to be looked upon as the NFL’s premier 3-technique tackle.

“Yeah,’’ he said last month. “There’s definitely glimpses of me doing very well at my job. With me personally, I just want to be more consistent at it. And me being more consistent at my job will put me up there as one of the best 3-techniques in the game and also help my team.’’

This getting redundant with Nelson. He’s the only offensive lineman and just the fifth player since the 1970 merger to earn first-team recognition in each of his first three seasons, joining Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Earl Campbell and Keith Jackson.

Leonard, meanwhile, is just a tick behind Nelson. He’s All-Pro for a third consecutive season – first-team this year and in his 2018 rookie season; second-team in ’19 – after being selected NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

When he was selected to his second Pro Bowl last month, Leonard said, “It means a lot, especially showing that all my hard work is paying off. Just very thankful.

“As a kid, these are the moments that you live for. Make it to the NFL and make sure that you get to all the big spots in your life every great has done. It just means a lot to me and hopefully I can continue to play great ball.’’

Leonard once again was the emotional leader of the defense. He led the group with 132 tackles and added 3 sacks, seven tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles.

The six All-Pro selections should put to rest some of the sting from the Pro Bowl. The only Colts selected to the Pro Bowl were Nelson, Leonard and Kelly.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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