(SportsNetwork.com) - The NFL's attempt at reinventing the Pro Bowl kicks off
Super Bowl week in Honolulu on Sunday when the NFL's best square off at Aloha
For the first time, the Pro Bowl will be utilizing an "unconferenced format,"
and several rules have been changed in an effort to add excitement to a game
long criticized for its lack of competitiveness.
The game of football really doesn't lend itself to an All-Star format and many
observers have politicked for the game's removal from the NFL schedule.
However, the contest does remain a success as a television vehicle, with last
year's encounter being watched by an average of 12.2 million viewers, making
it the most-watched All-Star game in American sports for the fourth
Gone is the familiar AFC-NFC dynamic that has existed since 1971, replaced by
Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders serving as alumni
team captains for the two Pro Bowl squads.
Rice and Sanders began shaping the 2014 Pro Bowl rosters on Tuesday.
Rice won a coin toss and had his choice of active player captains, choosing
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn,
as the first members of Team Rice, and leaving Houston defensive lineman J.J.
Watt and Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles as captains for Team Sanders.
Team Sanders led off the draft process by taking Detroit defensive tackle
Ndamukong Suh first and following that up with another pair of interior
linemen, Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy and Kansas City's Dontari Poe. Team Rice
took Dallas DT Jason Hatcher and a pair of teammates in Buffalo DTs Kyle
Williams and Marcell Dareus.
The other selections made by Team Rice on Tuesday were Brees' teammates in New
Orleans, offensive guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, along with Philadelphia
Eagles guard Evan Mathis, center Ryan Kalil and fullback Mike Tolbert of the
Carolina Panthers, New York Jets center Nick Mangold, Arizona Cardinals
special teams stalwart Justin Bethel, St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker and
Indianapolis Colts long snapper Matt Overton.
Other selections by Team Sanders were Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda,
New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins, Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long, Miami
Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack, Oakland
Raiders fullback Marcel Reece, New England Patriots special teamer Matthew
Slater, Miami Dolphins punter Brandon Fields and Panthers long snapper J.J.
On Wednesday Sanders got things rolling by selecting Indianapolis quarterback
Andrew Luck and Carolina signal-caller Cam Newton with his first two picks,
while Rice took New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and Philadelphia running
back LeSean McCoy with his first two selections.
Other picks by team Sanders included Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson,
Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, Tampa
Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis, Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, Kansas City
safety Eric Berry, Miami cornerback Brent Grimes, Carolina defensive end Greg
Hardy, Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown, Houston tackle Duane Brown,
Washington tackle Trent Williams, Kansas City outside linebacker Tamba Hali
and Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy.
He also selected San Diego safety Eric Weddle, Kansas City tackle Branden
Albert, Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny, Buffalo outside linebacker
Mario Williams, Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, Washington running
back Alfred Morris, Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson, Chicago
cornerback Tim Jennings, Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker, Minnesota kick
returner Cordarrelle Patterson, Cleveland safety T.J. Ward, Dallas tight end
Jason Witten, Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron and Philadelphia quarterback
"You could make a decision based on what you want or you can make a decision
based on what you need," Sanders said while indicating he didn't want to get
caught up making selections in response to Rice.
Selections by Team Rice were headlined by Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden,
tackle Joe Thomas and wide receiver Josh Gordon, Chicago wide receiver Alshon
Jeffery, Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers, Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze
Burfict, New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan, San Francisco safety Eric
Reid, New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, Dallas running back DeMarco
Murray and tackle Tyron Smith, Kansas City outside linebacker Justin Houston,
Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd and Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
He also took Miami defensive end Cameron Wake, Carolina tackle Jordan Gross,
Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson, Washington outside linebacker Brian
Orakpo, Arizona outside linebacker John Abraham, Chicago running back Matt
Forte, Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Tennessee safety Alterraun
Verner, New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski, Kansas City returner Dexter
McCluster, New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle, Atlanta tight end Tony
Gonzalez and Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith.
"I'm looking for the guys that are really hungry and want to put on a show in
Hawaii," said Rice.
Additionally, Team Sanders traded linebacker Robert Mathis to Team Rice for
This marks the fifth consecutive year in which the Pro Bowl will be held
one week prior to the Super Bowl, thereby removing members of the Seattle
Seahawks and Denver Broncos, who will meet in Super Bowl XLVIII in East
Rutherford, N.J. on Feb. 2.
The 44-man teams are comprised of 21 offensive and 18 defensive players plus
five specialists, including a long snapper. Team Sanders will be led by head
coach Chuck Pagano and the coaches from the Indianapolis Colts while Ron
Rivera and the Carolina Panthers' coaching staff will guide the Team Rice Pro
"I think it's going to be easier to deal with Chuck and coach Pep (Hamilton)
and the familiarity with those guys," Luck said after being drafted to play
under his coach and offensive coordinator. "I'm excited to play."
Last year, the NFC set a single-game Pro Bowl scoring record by defeating the
AFC, 62-35. Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, a late entrant for
Gonzalez, was named the game's MVP with a touchdown and 122 yards receiving on
Other highlights included Watt lining up at wide receiver and retiring Green
Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday switching sides for one play to snap to his
longtime teammate Peyton Manning.
Each player on the winning Pro Bowl team receives $53,000, while each on the
losing end earns $26,000.
This will be the 34th time in the past 35 years in which the Pro Bowl will be
held at Aloha Stadium, with the 2010 edition having taken place at Miami's Sun
Prior to the AFL-NFL merger, the leagues held separate All-Star games after
the season from 1961-69. The NFL had its own Pro Bowl from 1951-60, while the
league champion competed against an assembled group of top players between
PRO BOWL PRIMER
In addition to the above changes, several other aspects of the Pro Bowl will
be new in 2014:
-Offensive and Defensive MVPs: Media covering the game will choose two game
MVPs this year -- one offensive player and one defensive player. Each MVP will
be presented with a new GMC vehicle and an MVP medallion to commemorate the
-A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the
ball will change hands after each quarter. This is expected to increase the
opportunities for quarterbacks to direct more two-minute drills.
-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.
-The defense will be permitted to play cover-2 or press coverage. In previous
years, only man coverage was permitted, except on goal-line situations.
-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 was enacted to make the team with the ball attempt to gain
yardage toward the end of each quarter.
-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.
-A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-
-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.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Team Rice 49, Team Sanders 42
The Sports Network