ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons have the NFL’s second-leading rusher in Michael Turner and No. 2 receiver in Roddy White.
Both players knew they’d make the Pro Bowl, which announced lists from both conferences on Tuesday, but Turner and White couldn’t believe a third Falcon isn’t joining them on the NFC squad.
“I am upset that John Abraham did not make the Pro Bowl,” White said.
Turner was more succinct when asked about the credentials of a defensive end whose 15.5 sacks rank third.
“I thought Abraham was a lock to make it,” Turner said.
“This is a guy that did well all season long. It wasn’t like he had lapses in between games. He led the league in sacks for four or five straight weeks. I was shocked that he didn’t make it.”
When the season started, few league experts gave Turner and White much of a chance to lead the league in yardage. Atlanta was coming off a 4-12 season that included the imprisonment of quarterback Michael Vick, the abrupt resignation of coach Bobby Petrino and an offense that ranked 28th in scoring.
Turner arguably faced as much pressure as rookie starting quarterback Matt Ryan, the No. 3 overall draft pick. Coveted in free agency despite spending his first four seasons as a backup to LaDainian Tomlinson with San Diego, Turner proved to be worth the $15 million he’s guaranteed as part of a six-year, $34.5 million contract the Falcons signed him to in March.
As Atlanta (9-5) returns to practice Wednesday for this week’s game at Minnesota (9-5), Turner hopes to add an eighth 100-yard game to a career season that already includes 1,421 yards rushing and an NFL-best 15 touchdowns.
Turner and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, the league’s leading rusher with 1,581 yards, are tied for tops in first downs with 72.
“It feels great,” Turner said. “I got the news from Roddy. He was the first person who told me that we made it. I was happy and relieved. I had been wondering all weekend if I was going to make it. It is an honor and a privilege.”
Running routes and catching passes for Ryan has helped White’s career rise to the league’s highest level. A 2005 late first-round pick from Alabama-Birmingham, White last year emerged as a legitimate threat with the Falcons’ first 1,000 receiving season since Terance Mathis in 1999.
The addition of Ryan, head coach Mike Smith, offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and receivers coach Terry Robiskie gave White a platform to become one of the game’s best.
His timing on routes improved dramatically. So did the use of his hands, which was hardly considered an asset when White was more known for dropping balls in his first two years.
Now he has a career-high 1,310 yards.
“After all the things that I have been through in Atlanta in my first two years, I really came a long way and my hard work paid off.” White said. “It feels very good for me right now.”
Abraham and league sacks leader DeMarcus Ware were left off the team as fans, media and fellow players cast more votes at defensive end for Carolina’s Julius Peppers, the New York Giants’ Justin Tuck and Jared Allen of Minnesota.