Despite registering the fewest sacks since his rookie season and being publicly criticized by his defensive coordinator for a lackluster season, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins has been added to the Pro Bowl roster.
He replaces Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, who is unable to participate with an injury.
Atkins had just 3.0 sacks and 34 tackles last season in his return from an ACL injury that ended his 2013 season after Week 9.
The day after the Wild Card loss to Indianapolis, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther had some harsh words for Atkins when he was asked if he thought Atkins could return to pre-injury form.
“I sure hope so because we need him to be that way,” Guenther said. “Otherwise we need to go find a new inside rusher. He just didn’t play as effectively as he has in the past. Whether it’s in his mind from a health standpoint — we got to get that figured out before next season starts.
“We need to get him back to where he’s playing, where he’s one of the best three-techniques in the game because this year he was just three-technique number 20, in my mind. He was just a guy out there. We need to get him back to where he was, being that game-wrecker there inside.”
Atkins went to the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012. He had 12.5 sacks in 2012 to lead all interior linemen, and he had 6.0 sacks in 2013 before suffering the knee injury Oct. 31 against Miami.
The addition of Atkins gives the Bengals three players in the Pro Bowl, along with wide receiver A.J. Green, who is making his fourth trip in four years, and punter Kevin Huber, a first-time selection.
The game will be played Sunday, Jan. 25, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
The trio of Bengals may not be on the same squad for the game because for the second consecutive year, the Pro Bowl will be “unconferenced.” Instead of the AFC vs. NFC matchup that was previously the format, players were selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. Players will be assigned to opposing teams during the 2015 Pro Bowl Draft on NFL Network at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The teams will be known as Team Carter and Team Irvin, after Hall of Fame wide receivers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin, who will serve as alumni team captains and head the draft selection process for each of their squads.