NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Delanie Walker leads NFL tight ends in receptions, and ultimately he could be rewarded for his record-breaking season with a trip to the Pro Bowl.
But Walker is going to have to wait to find out – he's a first alternate for the annual all-star game. Four other tight ends were elected ahead of him in the voting process.
The same goes for Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who's also a first alternate. Six defensive tackles were elected ahead of him.
Despite barely being left off the initial Pro Bowl squad, there's a good chance the players could still represent the Tennessee Titans in Hawaii. The Pro Bowl is scheduled for January 31, a week before the Super Bowl. Regularly, some players elected to the Pro Bowl are forced to pull out of the contest because they're competing in the Super Bowl, or because of an injury.
Casey, who turned down a chance to go to the Pro Bowl in back-to-back years as an alternate, said last week he'd go an alternate this year. Casey is tied for the team lead with seven sacks on the season, and he leads the team with 24 quarterback pressures.
"You can't keep letting these things pass by like that," Casey said. "There are only a few chances you get these opportunities. I won't say I regret (not going before). But I am pretty upset I didn't get the last two, so I won't let the third one pass if I get an opportunity."
Walker, who leads all tight ends in receptions (76), and in missed tackles forced (16), according to Pro Football Focus, said on Monday he hoped to be voted to the Pro Bowl.
Players are elected to the Pro Bowl based on voting from fans, players and coaches, with each counting one-third. Casey finished eighth in the fan voting portion, while Walker finished ninth.
"Playing this game, you want to be All-Pro, you want to get that Pro Bowl selection,'' Walker said. "It would mean something to me. It would mean that my peers are noticing the work I put in on the field and see the hard work I put in out there, grinding week by week, and the fans noticing it as well. It means my play is being seen."
New England's Rob Gronkowski and Carolina's Greg Olsen were among the tight ends elected to the Pro Bowl, and they play on top-seeded teams from their respective conferences. A year ago, Gronkowski was forced to withdraw from the Pro Bowl because the Patriots were in the Super Bowl.
Kansas City's Travis Kelce and Tyler Eifert of the Bengals were the other two tight ends who made it instead of Walker.
Carolina's Kawann Short, Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox, Arizona's Calais Campbell, Cincinnati's Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald of the Rams were the six defensive tackles who made the team ahead of Casey.
Many of the players elected to the Pro Bowl are on teams scheduled to play in the upcoming playoffs.
Casey has had another big year for the Titans, following two solid seasons that earned him recognition. Casey, a five-year pro, is regarded as one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the game. He's also known for playing with all-out effort, which was put on display on December 13 against the Jets when he nearly ran down Jets receiver Brandon Marshall on a play when he was left uncovered.
"That's just what I am,'' Casey explained. "Once I am on that field, you have to give 110 (percent), no matter what. … I am not going to quit on the team and at the end of the day I have to keep performing."
The same can be said for Walker, who has broken franchise record for catches (76) and receiving yards (935) for the Titans this season. Walker also has six touchdowns.
On Monday, Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said it would be a "farce" if Walker didn't make it to the Pro Bowl.
"We're kidding ourselves if he's not one of the best tight ends in the NFL,'' Mularkey said.
Titans tackle Byron Bell agreed.
"(Delanie) is one of the best tight ends in this league and it's a shame he gets overlooked by guys like Gronk and Olsen and some of these other guys,'' Bell said.
"If he doesn't make it to the Pro Bowl this year, it's b.s. He has been one of the best tight ends in this league and he has he has earned it. He has fought for every yard he has gotten this year. I am lobbying for him because he deserves to be in Hawaii representing the Tennessee Titans."