ASHBURN, Va. -- Whether by marketing or merit, the Washington Redskins are sending four players to the Pro Bowl.
Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley, Chris Samuels and Mike Sellers were selected for the NFL's annual all-star game, a consolation prize for a 7-7 team that is all but eliminated from the playoffs after a 6-2 start.
While a solid case could be made for each of the four players, they were all aided by the franchise's aggressive marketing scheme that prompted fans to vote early and often for "the Redskins ticket." Washington players won the fan portion of the Pro Bowl voting in nine of 19 positions, counting for one-third of the total vote.
Coaches and players accounted for the other two-thirds.
It's also fortunate that voters decided not to focus solely on the events of the past week. Portis created a distraction by criticizing coach Jim Zorn on the radio leading up to Sunday's game against Cincinnati, and Cooley and Sellers both lost costly fumbles in the embarrassing 20-13 loss. Samuels missed the game altogether following his season-ending arm injury a week earlier.
Portis will be going to the Pro Bowl for the second time, having been selected following the 2002 season when he was with the Denver Broncos. Portis led the NFL in rushing through Week 10 but has tailed off during the Redskins' skid and now ranks third in the league with 1,337 yards on 291 carries.
Left tackle Samuels was selected for the fourth consecutive time and sixth overall. Only Darrell Green and Ken Houston, both chosen seven times, have more Pro Bowl nods as Redskins. Samuels is out for the season after tearing his right biceps in the 24-10 loss to Baltimore on Dec. 7.
Cooley will head to Hawaii for the second straight year. The tight end leads the Redskins with a career-high 73 receptions for 764 yards, although he has only one touchdown. He has already surpassed his own franchise season record for catches by a tight end, and only Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez has more receptions among NFL tight ends this season.
Sellers is a first-time Pro Bowl choice. The eighth-year veteran fullback, who returned to the NFL in 2004 after a series of personal problems had exiled him to the CFL, enjoyed a huge lead in fan voting. In addition to opening holes for Portis, Sellers has six carries for 24 yards this season along with 12 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
The Pro Bowl will be played Feb. 8 in Honolulu.