SANTA CLARA -- It did not go unnoticed that while the 49ers' defense has been dominant through the better part of the season, only two defensive players received Pro Bowl invitations.
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead has had a break out 2019 campaign, hitting career highs in several categories. He has amassed 10 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 11 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Needless to say, he was less than pleased by only being named as an alternate for the Pro Bowl.
"I'm mad. I’m mad, definitely. It’s something you dream about getting," Armstead said. "You work hard for it and you feel like you deserve it and you don’t get it. It’s beyond my understanding but it is what it is."
Armstead took to Twitter to express his disgust and seems ready to take out his aggression on the 49ers' upcoming opponents -- the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks.
While coach Kyle Shanahan approves of anything that gives his players a little more motivation, he stressed to the team that what they do in the coming weeks is much more significant.
“I would love anything that gets guys to play better, but the Pro Bowl doesn’t mean much in terms of anything for the team or what it does for the team,” Shanahan said before the honors were announced. “I think it’s really cool for those guys so I want everyone to get a Pro Bowl vote who deserves it.
"I think we’ve got a lot of guys who deserve it, but I try to tell them, don’t put too much into it because not everyone who deserves to go to the Pro Bowl goes to the Pro Bowl and some people do, so I’m not taking that away also.
“I’m really happy for guys if it happens because a number of guys deserve it, but those guys also better not be too upset if it doesn’t happen because it’s not guaranteed for them even if they deserve it.”
Because of name recognition, at times players have been selected to the Pro Bowl for their overall body of work, as opposed to their actual stand-alone season. Players enjoying a breakout season often fly under the radar and don't receive Pro Bowl recognition until the following season.
Armstead does not agree with either of these philosophies.
“I don’t feel like it’s a consolation because why would it lag?” Armstead said. “I mean the Pro Bowl is the 2019 season so you should get what you deserve that season. I don’t understand why it should lag.”
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh agrees that Armstead has had an outstanding season but also understands that the Pro Bowl doesn’t always reflect that.
“You know, I think sometimes that Pro Bowl thing can be a popularity vote,” Saleh said. “I think coach had a really good message that the players’ names are put to a higher standard with what you do in December and January.
“We are a young team that hasn’t done a lot over the last few years and we’ve got an opportunity in front of us to do something about it and really cement our names in the history of the league, if you want to say it that way. There’s a lot more guys deserving of it than just two Pro Bowls, in my opinion.”
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Armstead’s disappointment was palpable but that might be a good thing for the 49ers' defense. The fifth-year defensive lineman has a little extra motivation as the team heads into the last two games of the season with their playoff destiny riding on how they perform against the Rams and Seahawks.
“I obviously have a lot more to prove if people don’t see me as one of the best defensive linemen in the league.”