“We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “From there, our office worked closely with him in developing the concept. The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever. We think these changes will enhance the game for both fans and players.”
So what are the revisions? Gone is the familiar AFC versus NFC match-up that has existed since 1971.
Instead, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches, and players.
For example, the six quarterbacks with the most votes will earn distinction as All-Stars, regardless of how many are from AFC or NFC teams.
In addition, players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, in which two players and two NFL.com fantasy football champions will draft players.
To add the excitement, Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni team captains, assisting the Pro Bowl team captains and fantasy football champions in the draft process.
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” Foxworth said. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
The changes might not be ideal, but give the NFL credit for moving in the right direction, as the Pro Bowl had become unbearable to watch in recent years. With players looking to avoid participating in the event, and little to no intensity exhibited on the field, the event had lost much of its past luster.
The Pro Bowl player draft will air on Wednesday, January 22, on NFL Network. Players will practice with their teams on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The coaching staffs will be from the losing teams in the AFC and NFC Divisional playoffs with the best regular-season record.
In addition to the above-mentioned changes, several other aspects of the Pro Bowl will be new:
- Game within the Game – A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
- No Kickoffs – The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
- Rosters – The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
- Cover Two and Press Coverage – The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage. In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
- Stopping of the Game Clock – Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
- Game Timing – The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
- Play Clock – A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
- Sacks – The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
By Staff of The Daily Sports Herald and news services