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NFL Makes Major Changes To Pro Bowl

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Will the changes to the Pro Bowl have a positive impact? Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images.
Will the changes to the Pro Bowl have a positive impact? Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images.

In an effort to revamp the sagging Pro Bowl game, the NFL is abolishing the traditional NFC versus AFC matchup in favor of a fantasy-style draft, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

This would be similar to the NBA’s approach toward a fantasy draft for what used to be rookies versus sophomores during their All-Star Weekend. It’s a welcome change for the NFL, and it may drum up some more interest in the annual Hawaii showdown.

In a release by the NFL: “Players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, in which two leading vote getters will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions – who will attend the Pro Bowl – to draft players.  One of these champions will earn their spot as part of Lenovo’s Fantasy Coach of the Year program, which provides NFL.com fans a chance to be rewarded for their fantasy football skills.  The other champion can compete for a Pro Bowl role by playing at NFL.com/fantasy.

“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.  The 2014 Pro Bowl takes place on Sunday, January 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, and will be televised by NBC.”

A number of additional changes have also been added:

  • 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.

While these changes seem like they’re for the better, it’s only a start. If players continue to turn in poor performances, it may not have much of an impact in the long run. The Pro Bowl has been plagued by lackluster play and lopsided scores, and the NFL even suggested eliminating the Pro Bowl altogether at one point.

The future of the Pro Bowl will be determined by how this change works out. Players will need to put in more effort to compete, and the game must be more exciting. If the players fail to put on a good show, expect more changes.