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Bears’ Melton headed to Pro Bowl

Published: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 8:14 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — Henry Melton said a week ago “there is not another better D-tackle in the league than myself,” and now there isn’t another defensive tackle starting ahead of him in the Pro Bowl.

The Bears’ free-agent-to-be was selected for the first time Wednesday, joining four teammates also chosen as starters for the Jan. 27 all-star game in Honolulu.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Melton, a fourth-round draft pick in 2009. “It’s been a long journey from playing running back and defensive end and now being a Pro Bowl defensive tackle. There are a lot of people who had a hand in helping me, and I appreciate it.”

Cornerback Tim Jennings was also a first-time selection, joining fellow cornerback Charles Tillman (second selection), defensive end Julius Peppers (eighth) and wide receiver Brandon Marshall (fourth). Jennings and Tillman are the first teammates named starting cornerbacks since the Browns’ Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield in 1988.

“Being over there with all the guys, all the future Hall of Famers, I’m going to live for the moment and soak it all in,” Jennings said. “I’m excited to see what it’s really about.”

Linebacker Lance Briggs, who had been named to seven consecutive Pro Bowls, wasn’t picked despite 118 tackles, 11/2 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two touchdowns. He lost out in a sack race as the NFC’s three outside linebackers — the Packers’ Clay Matthews, the 49ers’ Aldon Smith and the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware — are all pass rushers in 3-4 defenses.

Shot fired: The Lions have earned a reputation for being undisciplined, and much of it has to do with the play of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. But Melton called the Lions “dirty” on offense too as the teams prepare for Sunday’s game at Ford Field.

“They’ve always been a dirty team since I’ve been here,” Melton said. “I don’t like them. They’re going to be looking for cheap shots and all that mess. Just have to hold our composure and play the game we know.”

Asked to expand on how the Lions are dirty, Melton said the evidence is on video. A skirmish between the teams last year started when Bears nickel back D.J. Moore hit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Bears took exception to a hit Suh put on Cutler during the Oct. 22 meeting at Soldier Field, but no penalty or fine was assessed.

“They try to do all this extra stuff, taking little cheap shots,” Melton said. “If you look at the tape, they’ve always thrown cheap shots. We had a brawl last year. I’m ready.”

Melton singled out veteran center Dominic Raiola as the biggest talker on the offensive front.

“He’s old and he just talks. He’s more just cuss words, bad language,” Melton said. “Then he’ll throw some cheap shots in there, and then he’ll say some bad words.”

Health beat: Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring) did not practice in a light session without pads and helmets, making it less likely he will return after missing the previous three games. Free safety Chris Conte (hamstring) will “be out a while,” according to coach Lovie Smith, making him highly doubtful for Sunday.

Running back Matt Forte (ankle) was held out, but the Bears are hopeful he will be available. Tillman (ribs/elbow), linebacker Blake Costanzo (calf) and running back Armando Allen (knee) also were held out. Tillman will start.

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