GREEN BAY — The wait is over for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and T.J. Lang.
The Packers’ third-year safety and eighth-year guard have been voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time in their careers, the NFL announced Tuesday. They join Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who was selected to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time.
Hours before the announcement, Rodgers went out of his way to stump for both players during his Tuesday media gathering at his locker.
Rodgers called Clinton-Dix “a no-doubter” and it’s difficult to argue otherwise. The former first-round pick is third on the team in tackles (72) and tied with the Giants’ Landon Collins for the league lead in interceptions by a safety (five) this season.
“It means a lot,” said Clinton-Dix when asked about Rodgers’ praise earlier on Tuesday. “I come into this office every day and work hard, and get better each and every day. (The Pro Bowl) is one of my goals, but right now I’m focused on the Minnesota Vikings.”
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound safety also leads the league with a pair of two-interception games this season. His most recent came during Sunday’s 30-27 win over Chicago when he picked off Bears QB Matt Barkley on back-to-back series.
Clinton-Dix is the fifth Pro Bowler Packers general manager Ted Thompson has drafted in the first round, joining Rodgers, LB Clay Matthews, LB A.J. Hawk and DT B.J. Raji.
“I think he’s understanding the defense more and understanding other guys’ jobs around him,” Packers S Morgan Burnett said earlier this week. “Once you know what the other people around you are doing, that allows you to play faster and allows you to play quicker because you know in situations where I can help aggressively, and some situations where I need to stay back deep. I think that’s just his knowledge of the game.”
Along with his praise of Clinton-Dix and Burnett on the back end, Rodgers also lauded Lang and the rest of the Packers’ offensive line for the job they’ve done protecting him this season.
Lang, a fourth-round pick in 2009, has started 97 of a possible 102 games (including playoffs) since joining the starting lineup in 2011. He’s started at four different positions with the Packers.
The 6-foot-4, 318-pound guard was named an alternate in each of the past two seasons but wasn’t selected for the game. He missed three games this season with a broken foot, but he returned ahead of schedule to rejoin an offensive line that’s helped propel the Packers into the top 10 in the NFL in yards per game (10th), passing yards per game (10th), yards per carry (sixth), third-down conversions (second), and scoring (seventh).
“He cares deeply about his team. He wants to win,” said offensive line coach James Campen last week. “He’ll do everything to play. That’s a tribute to him. He was in some pain, I’m sure, but he’s played a lot of football and knows how to work around things.”
Rodgers previously was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009, ’11, ’12, ’14 and ’15. He’s now tied with Matthews and DE Reggie White for the sixth-most Pro Bowl selections in franchise history.
Rodgers has completed 346 of 533 passes (64.9 percent) for 3,781 yards, 32 TDs and seven INTs for a 100.3 passer rating, which ranks fifth in the NFL. His 32 TDs are tied for second in the NFL with his 25 red-zone TDs tied for the league lead.
This year’s Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
“It’s always a good thing to get nominated, but I don’t plan on playing in it,” said Rodgers of the Pro Bowl, which is now played a week prior to the Super Bowl.
WR Jordy Nelson and T David Bakhtiari also were named first alternates. Other alternates included DT Mike Daniels, WR Davante Adams and FB Aaron Ripkowski.
Nelson leads the Packers with 82 catches for 1,037 yards and 12 TDs in his return season after missing all of the 2015 campaign due to surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“Jordy has had a great season,” Rodgers said. “He should be comeback player of the year, for sure, with the way he’s bounced back from that ACL and been extremely productive.”