NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Three Titans have been selected to play in this year's Pro Bowl, and the group includes a pair of returning Pro Bowlers, and a punter with a strong right leg.
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, left tackle Taylor Lewan and punter Brett Kern have been selected as Pro Bowlers.
The Titans have also been informed seven other players are alternates: special teamer Brynden Trawick, tight end Delanie Walker, safety Kevin Byard, kick returner Adoree' Jackson, right tackle Jack Conklin, quarterback Marcus Mariota and linebacker Brian Orakpo.
This year's Pro Bowl will be played on January 28 at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
"There's a lot of guys deserving,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said on Monday.
Casey will be playing in his third Pro Bowl after turning down two previous trips as an alternate. It will be Lewan's second straight Pro Bowl trip.
Kern, meanwhile, is a first time selection. After finding out the news, the 10-year veteran reminisced about all the work it took to get to this point, and the support he's received from his parents, his wife, his teammates and his coaches along the way.
"It's a huge blessing," Kern said. "I have been working at it for about 15 years now. It has been a process of just trying to get better every year, from my dad helping me shag punts back when I was in high school. Then in college, I remember my senior year when I was getting ready for the draft and the combine, my wife (Tiffany), who was my fiancée back then, we would go to the local golf dome when it closed at 9 o'clock at night, there would barely be any heat in there and I would go punt footballs and she would go retrieve them for me and bring them back. She has been a huge supporter and encourager all these years.
"And all the people I've had around me for encouragement and support, it is a huge blessing, and a testament to all the work I've put in over the years. And my teammates this year, they have helped me so much in protection and coverage and really take a lot of pride in being one of the best punt teams in the league."
Kern currently leads the NFL in punting average (51.6) and net average (45.6). If the season ended today, Kern's gross average would break one of the NFL's oldest records. In 1940, Washington's Sammy Baugh established the league benchmark with 51.40 gross yards per punt. Seventy-seven years later, the record still stands, and Baugh's mark is the longest-standing, unmatched, single-season record by an individual in the NFL Record & Fact Book.
"I've always wanted to say I was a Pro Bowl punter, but I know it's very hard," Kern said. "I don't necessarily go into the season saying that's my goal just because my goal is to help the team, whether it's by averaging 35 yards and having five inside the 20, or average 55 yards because the situations call for us to have big punts."
It's also been another strong year for Casey, who has 60 tackles, 28 quarterback pressures and five sacks. Since 2013, the interior defender has produced five consecutive seasons with at least five sacks. A third-round pick in 2011, he had a career-high 10.5 sacks in his third year and has never dipped below five sacks since then.
Since individual sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982, only three other players have ever had five sacks in five consecutive seasons—and none in the "Titans era" (1999–present). The list is headed by former Oilers defensive lineman Ray Childress, who tallied at least five sacks every year from 1986–1994, followed by defensive linemen William Fuller (1988–1993) and Sean Jones (1988–1993).
Lewan, a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has been solid once again for the Titans. He's started all 13 games, and he's now started 50 of 55 games since arriving in the league out of Michigan. Lewan, who played in the Pro Bowl last season in Orlando, has been the team's best offensive lineman this season.
There's a chance other Titans could join the three selected at the Pro Bowl.
Trawick leads the team with 16 special teams tackle after being signed during the offseason. Walker, who has played in the past two Pro Bowls, is having another solid season, with 68 catches for 755 yards and five touchdowns. Byard led all free safeties in Pro Bowl voting by fans, and he currently leads all safeties with six interceptions. But he was selected as an alternate.
Jackson, Conklin, Mariota and Orakpo are all alternates as well and could be added at a later date depending on the status of players in front of them.
The 2018 Pro Bowl will once again feature a return to the traditional AFC vs. NFC game format following three years using a revised, "unconferenced" format.
The Pro Bowlers are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the Pro Bowl seasons of T Taylor Lewan, DT Jurrell Casey and P Brett Kern. (AP Photos)