NFL Network has commenced its week-long unveiling of unofficial Associated Press awards that suddenly seem a lot more official now that the awards have received the imprimatur of the National Football League.
First up? Defensive player of the year. The winner? Per multiple reports, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
Though we’ve yet to see the full voting, it’s possible that Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu divided enough ballots to keep either from winning. Then there’s the fact that Polamalu missed several late-season games due to injury.
Then there’s the fact that the folks at Head & Shoulders opted to launch a campaign to secure the award.
Matthews is the second former USC linebacker to win a major award in the past two NFL seasons. In 2009, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was named the AP defensive rookie of the year. Cushing won the award again after a re-vote conducted following the announcement of a four-game suspension for violation of the league’s steroids policy. The Trojan connection between the two players compelled Matthews to deny taking steroids in May 2010.
Likewise, Matthews is the second straight Packer to be named defensive player of the year. In 2009, the honor went to cornerback Charles Woodson.
Matthews also had an indirect hand in the likely AP comeback player of the year — Eagles quarterback Mike Vick. Matthews used the helmet of Kevin Kolb to create a T-bone-sized divot in the turf at Lincoln Financial Field, opening the door for Vick to seize the starting job in Philly.
UPDATE: Apparently, there’s a chance the “multiple reports” were all wrong. Time will tell. At least no one has killed Terry Bradshaw. Again.
UPDATE II: Yep, they were all wrong.