By John Turney
Pro Bowl alternates began to be released to the media, based on our research, around 1979 or 1980. They had them previously, but it was only found out if someone on the original team was out with an injury.
However, that comes with a caveat. We know of three instances when a player was voted to the original team, but never got credit for it because they were injured about the time the teams were named and the NFL simply replaced them without giving them the honor of making the team and then being replaced by an alternate as is the practice now.
Doug Atkins told us, years ago, that same thing happened to him in 1968. He was having a monster comeback season in his first year with the Saints and in the 11th game of the season, he got a hairline fracture in his leg. When the Pro Bowl teams were going to be announced a Saints official approached him and wanted to know the status of the leg since the league wanted to know. Atkins reported that he told the official, "Don't tell them anything, I may be able to play by then".
Well, apparently the NFL did find out and he was never credited with that selection, he was just replaced by the Steelers Ben McGee.
|Lee Roy Selmon|
There may be some others we've not yet found, but they'd all be from pre-1979, since now, even if a player is hurt, he gets the honor of being named to the team and then replaced, even if the injury happens prior to the selections, but we will keep an eye out for oddities in the selections where seemingly qualified players were not on the team and were also injured late in the season as Dillon, Atkins, and Selmon were.
So, while not official, when we cite Pro Bowls we always add in these picks for these players with an asterisk stating they made the team but were not given the proper credit, for whatever credit the selections are worth, anyway.