DENVER — In a year when so much has gone wrong, the NFL made right a snub.
Broncos safety Justin Simmons was named to his first Pro Bowl, an honor he deserved last season when he earned second-team All-Pro status. Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb reached another mile marker on his road to recovery, joining Simmons on the AFC team.
"I am really proud and thankful for everyone that has been part of my life and kept my head on straight [over the years]. It's been such a crazy journey," Simmons said. "It's still kind of surreal to think about it. After last season, the [franchise] tag, and betting on myself. It's just kind of surreal right now."
Roster selections were determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches, with each group’s vote counted as one-third toward determining the 88 selections. There will be no game this week, replaced by a week long virtual event.
For Simmons, this marks a bitter sweet honor. He has yet to reach the playoffs in his four seasons with the Broncos, but that is not traced to his play. The free safety boasts 87 tackles and four interceptions this season. He bet on himself this season, unable to find common ground on a long-term deal.
He played on the franchise tag and should be a top priority after earning All-Pro in 2019, a second Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee and the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award winner. He is one of six players in the NFL to see action in all of his team’s defensive snaps, participating in 960 plays this season.
"It's great the fans recognize me [for] what I do off the field and on the field as well. That's huge," Simmons said. "It also speaks that the other players and coaches around the league selected me and recognized my game. That goes a long way. Ultimately, you know how much how hard goes into putting years on years."
Chubb returned from the second ACL surgery on his left knee to reach the highest honor to date in his young career. Though he has only 7.5 sacks, they hardly tell the story. He ranks second in the AFC with combining quarterback knockdowns and hurries. Only Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt, a candidate for defensive player of the year honors, has more. He becomes the third Bronco—running back Phillip Lindsay and receiver Courtland Sutton—from the 2018 draft class to earn Pro Bowl honors.
"I keep getting choked up and apologizing. My dad told me to keep my head on straight and to keep working," said Chubb tearing up, recalling the conversation with his father after he tore his ACL in September in 2019. "This crazy year, everything everyone has been through, everything this team has been through to have this bright spot is cool."
Garett Bolles represents the Broncos' most notable snub, left out in favor Eric Fisher, Laremy Tunsil and Orlando Brown. Bolles has consistently ranked as the game's top tackle this season by Pro Football Focus, a remarkable rebound. The Broncos were so convinced in his improvement—he led the team in penalties for three straight years—they awarded him a four-year, $68 million contract extension two weeks ago.