Dexter Lawrence is headed to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, but he doesn’t mind that an actual football game will not be played this year in Las Vegas.
The NFL has scrapped the farcical game and replaced it with a flag-football game and a series of skills and non-football competitions — such as dodgeball, in which the Giants’ mammoth defensive tackle is looking forward to participating.
“I’m a big target, but I think I throw a pretty good fastball that can’t be dodged,” Lawrence joked after Thursday’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s road game against the Vikings.
Opposing running backs and quarterbacks also have encountered difficulty eluding the 342-pound Lawrence this season, his fourth in the NFL after the Giants drafted him with the 17th-overall pick out of Clemson in 2019.
The 25-year-old Lawrence has registered a team-leading and career-high 6.5 sacks to go with 24 quarterback hits and 57 combined tackles, including five for losses and two forced fumbles.
“It’s an honor, for sure, the respect that you earn around the league and the support from the fans, things like that. It’s all an honor, for sure,” Lawrence said of his first career Pro Bowl nod. “I think I’m having a solid season. There’s plays I wish I could have back, opportunities I wish I would have finished on a couple of plays, but overall, I think I’ve been solid.
“I’ve been trying to improve every week and just trying to win, honestly. I don’t care what my numbers say, I just want to win for my brothers.”
Lawrence certainly has been a huge contributor to the Giants’ 8-5-1 record and their potential first postseason berth since 2016.
“For sure, if that’s what I have to do, if I have to be great, I’m gonna go be great,” he said. “It’s the role that I wanted to take on this year, to accept my role and to shine.
“So that’s what I’m proud of about myself, but the job’s not done yet.”
Daboll recently referred to Lawrence as “the centerpiece of our defense.” Earlier this year, Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said that he told Lawrence: “If you’re not in the Pro Bowl, that’s my fault.”
Lawrence became the Giants’ first interior lineman to make it since nose tackle Erik Howard was named in 1990 and their first defensive lineman since Jason Pierre-Paul went in 2012.
Running back Saquon Barkley, who leads the NFC with 1,170 rushing yards, also was selected for the second time in his career.
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