IRVING, Texas – In the most important week of the season for this Cowboys team, there is a short break for a pair of worthy individuals.
While the Cowboys were hoping for some deserving first-timers, only two players made it to the Pro Bowl, and they're definitely no strangers to it.
Tight end Jason Witten is headed back to Hawaii for the eighth time in his career after missing last year. And despite a season filled with injures and lower-than-usual stats, DeMarcus Ware is also going for his seventh straight Pro Bowl.
Ware is a starter for the seventh straight time as he becomes the Cowboys' all-time leader in Pro Bowl selections by a linebacker, surpassing Chuck Howley. Ware is now seventh all-time in overall Pro Bowl trips.
Witten, who is a backup this year for the NFC squad, is now tied for sixth on the Cowboys' list of Pro Bowlers with eight, alongside Emmitt Smith.
As always, the Cowboys do not announce their alternates.
With Witten and Ware, the two selections give the Cowboys 15 years of experience in the Pro Bowl between the two guys, but clearly they were hopeful a few other new faces would get the nod.
Without a doubt, Dez Bryant appeared to be worthy of getting selecting. He ranks second in the NFL with 12 touchdown catches and is fourth in the NFC in receiving yards (1,311) and third among receivers in catches with 88.
But Bryant came on strong in the second half of the season, catching 10 of these 12 touchdowns from Nov. 11 to now. The Pro Bowl voting ended before his monster game last Sunday of 224 receiving yards and two 58-yard touchdowns on back-to-back possessions.
There was also a chance for kicker Dan Bailey, who has three game-winning field goals and has made 28 of 30 field-goal attempts. And what about Anthony Spencer, who has a career-high 10 sacks, which ranks fourth in the NFC, behind San Francisco's Aldon Smith (19.5), Green Bay's Clay Matthews (12) and Ware (11.5).
While Ware's numbers are down from his 19.5 sacks last year and the 20 he had in 2008, he got off to a fast start this year, where he had at least a half-sack in nine of the first 10 games, including eight straight. But in recent weeks, injuries have piled up for Ware, who missed practiced Wednesday because of an injured elbow and shoulder.
As for Witten, there was a chance he might not play at all this year after suffering a lacerated spleen injury in the first preseason game. While it was decided surgery wasn't needed, Witten rushed back to play in the first game, where he had just two catches for 10 yards. After three games, Witten had eight catches and a handful of dropped passes, clearly showing he wasn't himself.
But he more than turned things around, recording games of 13 and then 18 catches in a game, Witten went on to record more catches this year than any tight end in NFL history, surpassing Tony Gonzalez' record of 102 catches set in 2004.
Witten is up to 103 with a game to play and could even break Michael Irvin's Cowboys' single-season record of 111 set in 2005.