Defensive tackle Geno Atkins entered Bengals royalty Friday when he was named to next week's Pro Bowl in place of Detroit's injured Ndamukong Suh.
Atkins, the third alternate, joins four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and first-time punter Kevin Huber for the Jan. 25 all-star game (8 p.m.-ESPN) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. It's believed that Green has been cleared to play in the game after missing the Wild Card Game with a concussion.
Atkins becomes the first Bengals defensive lineman ever named to three Pro Bowls and the first defensive player since safety David Fulcher went from 1988-90. A franchise centered on offense for much of its history, only two other defensive players have gone to at least three Pro Bowls: cornerback Lemar Parrish went to six in the 1970s and safety Tommy Casanova went to three in 1974 and 1976-77.
The emergence of Atkins as the league's top inside pass rusher in 2011 and 2012 coincided with the Bengals' run of top ten defensive rankings. He set a towering standard in his second Pro Bowl season in 2012 when his 12.5 sacks dominated second place Suh's eight.
Atkins didn't get voted in last season because he tore his ACL on Halloween Night, an injury that prevented him from having a typical season in 2014. Atkins came back to play all 16 games, but although his three sacks were second on the team they were his fewest since the three of his rookie season in 2010.
His 34 tackles were his fewest in a full season since his rookie year. But he also had eight tackles-for-loss, good for second on the team, and seven QB hits, third on the team He shared Cincinnati's only sack in last week's playoff loss to Indianapolis.
Atkins had been so dominant before the surgery that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther observed the day after this past season ended, "We need to get him back to where he was when he was one of the best three techniques in the game. This year he was just three technique No. 20. He was just a guy out there. We need to get him back where he was a game wrecker inside."
The Bengals are encouraged that Atkins can return to form because instead of rehabbing this offseason, he'll be able to spend that time in the weight room that he missed last season honing his signature strength.
Nose tackle Tim Krumrie was the last Bengals defensive lineman to go to multiple Pro Bowls when he was voted in after the 1987 and 1988 seasons. Tackle Mike Reid went to the 1972 and 1973 games and end Coy Bacon followed in 1976 and 1977.
The Pro Bowl is again "unconferenced." Instead of the AFC vs. NFC, players were selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. They are assigned teams Wednesday night during the 2015 Pro Bowl Draft (8 p.m.-NFL Network) as Team Carter and Team Irvin. Hall of Fame wide receivers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin serve as alumni team captains and head the draft.
JOSEPH PURSUED: According to multiple reports, Bengals cornerbacks coach Vance Joseph is under consideration for the head coaching job in Denver. The 42-year-old Joseph has never been a coordinator but there is no doubt he's on the fast track. In his first season with the Bengals some of his cornerbacks agreed that they had a future defensive coordinator in the making as well as a possible head coach.
Joseph played DB and quarterback at the University of Colorado from 1990-94 and one of the other Broncos candidates, Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, hired Joseph as his secondary coach in Houston in 2011.