By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
On Wednesday the NFL announced some changes to try and get some interest going again in their All-Star game, the NFL Pro Bowl. The NFL will be taking a page out of the NHL’s handbook and is scrapping the AFC-NFC conference head-to-head game in favor of a fantasy draft or sorts. Captains will pick the 43 representatives of each team regardless of conference affiliations.
The process of choosing Pro Bowlers will change as well. Instead of fans voting for starters in each game their votes will determine who will captain each team. The top two vote getters will captain their respective teams in addition to Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders and two NFL.com fantasy football winners.
The format is not only changing this season for the Pro Bowl but there will be some rule changes implemented. In a joint press conference held by the NFL and the union the following changes proposed by NFL Players association president Domonique Foxworthy were passed:
There will no longer be kickoffs in the Pro Bowl citing safety concerns. Another change in play is the defense that will be allowed to be used. Previously only man coverage was allowed by defenders in the Pro Bowl at all times except for goal line situations; now Cover 2 and press coverage will be allowed to give the game more of a real game feel. There will also be two-minute warnings added at the end of the first and third quarters to go along with the ones at the end of each half. At the end of each quarter possession will change hands as well.
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” said Foxworthy in a statement. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
In a statement from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, he stated the league was “very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth. 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 the fans and players.”
I guess it is good that at least Goodell and the players think that because as a fan this seems more gimmicky than ever. In the NHL it works because it was something different to drum up interest in a sport struggling to gain traction in the US and because with only five players and a goalie on the ice it is easy to mix and match players. In the NFL it is hard enough to get players in the same page for a regular pro bowl and this will only make it more difficult. The drafting process also does not work because the teams participating in the Super Bowl will not be partaking in the Pro Bowl, unlike the NHL when every team is there. Will Super Bowl bound players that would normally be heading to the Pro Bowl be penalized by not being picked because of their inability to participate?
The idea as a whole seems like a poor one in terms of changing what is a flawed game. Also taking away one of the most exciting parts of the game in the kick return citing health concerns is contradicting. They will allow new defenses to be implemented to make it feel like a real game but are making it more of a backyard game than ever with teams being drafted and no kickoffs being present.
The Pro Bowl draft will be held January 22nd next year and the game itself will be January 26th at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.