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Matthew Stafford would have been a Pro Bowler, had his finger allowed him to participate in the game. An invitation was extended to the Detroit Lions quarterback, but was declined because of the injured middle finger on this throwing hand, according to a league source.

The source requested anonymity because the NFL does not publicly reveal which players decline invitations.

Stafford was named an alternate to the annual all-star game when the rosters were announced. Two of the three NFC quarterbacks needed to be replaced — Atlanta’s Matt Ryan because he’s playing in the Super Bowl and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers due to injury. Those spots were filled by Washington’s Kirk Cousins and New Orleans’ Drew Brees.

Stafford had one of his best seasons in 2016, completing 65.3 percent of his passes for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also showed improved ability to make plays with his feet, rushing for a career-best 207 yards on 37 scrambles.

His most impressive accomplishment came from his ability to close games out. Stafford led eight fourth-quarter comebacks in 2016, a single-season record.

Stafford did struggle down the stretch after suffering a finger injury in Week 14 against the Chicago Bears, throwing half of his interceptions the final four games of the regular season. Wearing a protective split and modified, single-finger glove, he was also held out of the end zone twice in those four games and again in the team’s playoff loss to Seattle.

Stafford is scheduled to enter the final year of his contract next season, but it’s expected the team will work diligently toward an extension this offseason. His new deal could be valued at more than $25 million per year, making him the NFL’s highest-paid player.

This would have been Stafford’s second Pro Bowl. He went in as an alternate in 2015 and won the game’s MVP award, throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns.

jdrogers@detnews.com

Twitter: @justin_rogers

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