Updated: 10 p.m.
Andrew Whitworth got the word from Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis on Tuesday afternoon and Lewis could hear the disappointment in Whitworth's voice when he told him he hadn't been named to the Pro Bowl.
"He said no doubt I was deserving," Whitworth said, "and that maybe this is going to be a stepping stone. He sounded down about it. I think Marvin appreciates how I try to be a leader and how hard I prepare. You just go out and keep trying to get better."
The lack of a Pro Bowl player is fallout from the Bengals' 4-11 season that ends Sunday in Baltimore. The Bills were the only other AFC team not to have a selection and the Bengals' lone alternate, wide receiver Terrell Owens, believed to be a second alternate, is most likely out with knee surgery.
Owens, the only other Bengal to finish in the top five in voting, tweeted the alternate news after losing out to Houston's Andre Johnson, Denver's Brandon Lloyd, Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne, and Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe. Owens most likely can't go if called because of last week's surgery to repair torn cartilage.
Although they had no players selected last year, the Bengals did send wide receiver Chad Ochocinco as an alternate.
Even though Whitworth handily won the AFC left tackle vote over Baltimore's Michael Oher, neither was one of the three voted by players and coaches: Miami's Jake Long and Cleveland's Joe Thomas and backup D'Brickashaw Ferguson of the Jets. Whitworth, a second-rounder in the 2006 draft, noted all were top five picks. Long was No. 1 in 2008, Thomas No. 3 in 2007, and Ferguson No. 4, taken 51 spots ahead of Whitworth in '06.
"You figure the high draft picks and more visible teams are going to have an edge and D'Brickashaw is on a team that is doing well," Whitworth said. "And once someone goes, it seems like they're there every year because of the name recognition. It is what it is. It would have been a nice honor. But the real honor is going to be when I help the Cincinnati Bengals to a championship."
The last Bengals tackle to be named to the Pro Bowl, Willie Anderson in 2006, was an interested observer Tuesday. He called a few times looking for updates and was disappointed when word finally came down. But he wasn't altogether surprised after it took him seven years to get the nod.
"I empathize with him and I know how well he's played," Anderson said. "Three things go into making the Pro Bowl. Being good, but also being on a good team and name recognition and I think Whit's the victim of being on a team with a bad record. Everybody who has watched the Bengals play knows what a good year he's had, but no one wants to look at you if you're on a bad team. Only three make it, but if you don't make it, it doesn't mean you're not an elite tackle."
Whitworth has plenty to look at, particularly at the AFC's Pro Bowl outside linebackers, old friends Terrell Suggs of Baltimore and Pittsburgh's James Harrison. Whitworth has yet to give up a sack to either during his career as he gears up for his seventh meeting with Suggs and his 68.5 career sacks.
"I've blocked the two guys going to the Pro Bowl and that's the important thing," Whitworth said.
According to Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander, Whitworth has allowed two sacks this season, both to Pro Bowlers in the last minute deep in Cincinnati's own territory on the road, John Abraham in Atlanta and Dwight Freeney in Indianapolis. Which means at one time or another this season Whitworth has blanked five players with at least 7.5 sacks: Miami's Cameron Wake (14), Harrison (11), Suggs (11), San Diego's Shaun Phillips (11), and Cleveland's Marcus Benard (7.5).
Whitworth takes solace in the big fan vote, much of which he chalks up to his work in the community in Cincinnati and his hometown of West Monroe, La. It turns out the fan vote and $1.60 can get you a medium Dunkin' Donuts coffee when it comes to making the Pro Bowl.
According to the NFL, each section of votes is broken down into points. Points are determined by the number of votes a player received divided by the total possible votes for that player, multiplied by 100, then multiplied by 1/3. For fan votes, it is done as a player's vote divided by total votes cast at that position, multiplied by 1/3. For players and coaches, a similar formula applies. A player's amount of votes, divided by total possible votes for that player, multiplied by 100, multiplied by 1/3.
All Whitworth knows is the way the fan vote came about can't be calculated.
"That's what really counts. People who know me know how much I care about it," Whitworth said. "It's meant a lot to me this year to be out in the community and have so many people come up to me and tell me how well I'm doing and how they're going to vote for me. To win the fan vote, that's a big honor."
Tuesday found him at another community event. He and the rest of the offensive line auctioned off a dinner with them for a charity tied to Taste of the NFL and Whitworth was pretty much the host at Northern Kentucky's Knotty Pine On The Bayou, where the Cajun chef, John Caulfield, hails from West Monroe.
"You know what exit that is off of 275, don't you?" Whitworth asked. "Of course, it's Exit 77."
Whitworth, No. 77 himself, can only hope the numbers work out like that next year.