LAKE FOREST - A nervous Lance Briggs spent the previous night comparing himself to other linebackers. Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris had it on high authority that he would be named to the Pro Bowl.
Six Bears were selected Wednesday in a vote by fans, players and coaches, with linebacker Brian Urlacher and center Olin Kreutz being picked for the fifth time and Briggs, Harris, cornerback Nathan Vasher and safety Mike Brown earning their first trip to the game in Honolulu.
"My reaction was I was just relieved," said Briggs, a second Pro Bowl alternate last season. "I don't have to think about it anymore."
Harris wasn't sure he would make it with three sacks, but his mother predicted he would.
"That just shows you the power of prayer," Harris said. "My mom told me I was going to make it. She was like, 'I'm praying for you. God already told me it's done.' And I was like, I don't know how that's gonna be done with three sacks."
The six Pro Bowl selections were the most for the Bears since 1990, and the last time they had five on defense was during the 1985 championship season - when Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary, Otis Wilson and Dave Duerson were picked. With the NFL's No. 1 defense and a strong offensive line and running game, the Bears are a surprising 10-4 and lead the NFC North.
"I think most of us got in from the players' and coaches' votes, so I think it just shows the respect that we have through the circles of the players that we play (and) the coaches that have watched us on film," Brown said.
They see a team holding opponents to a league-low 10.8 points per game. And they see a relatively young group, with Vasher and Harris in their second season and Briggs in his third.
"That's pretty impressive to be honored like that early in their career," Brown said.
Kreutz anchors an offensive line that has helped Thomas Jones rush for a career-high 1,168 yards.
"It's always an honor," said Kreutz, who is from Hawaii. "It's at the stadium where I played high school football."
Urlacher - the leader among defensive players in the fan balloting with 447,145 votes - has 161 tackles (95 solo), six sacks, nine tackles for loss, six pass breakups and one forced fumble.
"I think he's the best defensive players in the league," coach Lovie Smith said. "I think he should be MVP of the National Football League."
Complementing him is Briggs with 162 tackles (80 solo), two sacks, seven tackles for loss, 11 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
After missing the final 14 games last season with a torn Achilles tendon, Brown has 67 solo tackles and 89 total, three interceptions - one he returned 41 yards for a touchdown against Detroit Sept. 18.
"Of course, I'm honored," said Brown, in his sixth season. "But it's something that I've never set out to do. … I feel like I've had a pretty decent career. And I feel like my teammates have respected me since the first day I've been here. That's the most important thing for me."
Vasher has eight interceptions, two shy of the team record set by Mark Carrier in 1990, and 17 breakups to go with 54 tackles. He set the NFL record for the longest play when he returned a missed field goal 108 yards against San Francisco last month.
Harris has 56 tackles, two forced fumbles and two recoveries.
"We've got some good young talent on this team, and it's nice that they got recognized for their play," Urlacher said. "They're not the biggest names. And there are a lot of guys out there who get more recognition from the media. And these guys go out there and play hard every week. The players around the league and coaches around the league saw that."
After going 5-11 last season, the Bears were not expected to contend in the NFC. Yet, they're doing just that. And recognition came Wednesday.
"We've always had expectations that we were going to be a great football team," Brown said. "And I think we're on our way."
Alex Brown and Brendon Ayanbadejo were named first alternates at defensive end and special teams, respectively. Jones and defensive end Adewale Ogunleye are second alternates, and tight end Desmond Clark is a third alternate.