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December 27, 2011
Full bowl: Eight 49ers get invites to Honolulu

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A 49ers team that sent just two players - Patrick Willis and Justin Smith - to the Pro Bowl a year ago received eight invites for this year's game, including three players, left tackle Joe Staley, safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers, who received Pro Bowl honors for the first time. Of course, the 49ers would be content if none of their players went to Hawaii. Players who play in the Super Bowl - the following week in Indianapolis - do not take part in the Pro Bowl.

Six players were named starters. Two more -- safety Dashon Goldson and running back Frank Gore -- were named backups. That ties the Patriots for most Pro Bowlers this year and is the most the 49ers have had since they sent 10 in 1994 and 1995.

Meanwhile, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, Blake Costanzo (special teams), tight end Vernon Davis, receiver Ted Ginn (returner), center Jonathan Goodwin, left guard Mike Iupati, defensive end Ray McDonald, fullback Bruce Miller and safety Donte Whitner were named alternates. Those players would go if a starter or backup couldn't play because of injuries or because they're playing in the Super Bowl.

49ers 2011 Pro Bowlers

• K David Akers. Akers owns the NFL record for most field goals in a season - 42 - and has one more game to pad his stats. He also is the 49ers' single-season scoring champion. Akers missed a 52-yard field goal in Saturday's game in Seattle, but that is a rarity. He's 7-9 from beyond 50 yards this season. Akers also is tied for second in touchbacks - 45 - this season. This is Akers' sixth Pro Bowl invite.

• RB *Frank Gore. Despite knee and ankle injuries and splitting carries in recent weeks with Kendall Hunter, Gore is the NFC's second-leading rusher with 1,202 yards, the second highest total of his career (with one game remaining). Earlier this year, he became the 49ers' all-time leading rusher since the team joined the NFL in 1950. Gore's Pro Bowl cause likely was aided by injuries to two other premiere runners in the NFC, Chicago's Matt Forte and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. This is Gore's third Pro Bowl invite.

• S * Dashon Goldson. Making the pro Bowl will help Goldson's bid for a big free-agent contract, something he tried for, but failed to achieve, this past offseason. Goldson is a big hitter who also has good hands and the ability to make plays on the ball. His six interceptions ties for the team lead. This is Goldson's first Pro Bowl invite.

• P Andy Lee. He had back-to-back masterful performances recently against Arizona and on national television against Pittsburgh. Lee's net punting average - 43.5 yards - leads the NFL and he's pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 26 times. This is Lee's third Pro Bowl invite.

• CB Carlos Rogers. Rogers was not the team's first choice at cornerback on the free agency market but has been an excellent fit. Rogers is the unofficial captain of the secondary, and he's tied with Goldson for the team lead in interceptions - 6. Not bad for a player who left Washington with a reputation for bad hands. This is Rogers' first Pro Bowl invite.

• DE Justin Smith. His forced fumble of Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin was perhaps the play of the year for the 49ers. Smith epitomizes Jim Harbaugh's blue-collar team - he's hard working, makes plays and shuns credit. Smith has 6 ½ sacks, three forced fumbles and has helped blaze a trail for rookie Aldon Smith, who has 14 sacks to lead all rookies. This is Smith's third Pro Bowl invite.

* LT Joe Staley. Staley is the leader of the offensive line and has become one of the better downfield blockers on the team and in the league. He also caught a pass for a first down in the team's Oct. 30 game against Cleveland. This is Staley's first Pro Bowl.

• LB Patrick Willis. Willis has dealt with his first multi-game injury of his career this season, a hamstring strain that kept him out of the last three contests. That he's going to the Pro Bowl for the fifth straight season is an indication of the respect he has around the league and is recognition that he is the centerpiece of the 49ers' excellent defense. This is Willis' fifth Pro Bowl invite.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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