The NFL is punting on the Pro Bowl. Beginning this year, the league is replacing the Pro Bowl with flag football and a variety of skills competitions. The NFL announced the move Monday morning via the Associated Press.
In addition to replacing the Pro Bowl game itself, the league will hold a weeklong series of events which they’re calling “The Pro Bowl Games.”
AFC and NFC players will still be voted to the Pro Bowl. Those players will compete in various skills competitions throughout Pro Bowl week. To conclude the week, the Pro Bowlers will participate in a flag football game from Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium on February 5th.
NFL Pro Bowl Began In 1951
NFL Executive Peter O’Reilly detailed the league’s decision to scrap the game: “The Pro Bowl is something that we’ve been looking at for a while, really continuing to evolve.”
O’Reilly added: “We think there’s a real opportunity to do something wholly different here and move away from the traditional tackle football game. We decided the goal is to celebrate 88 of the biggest stars in the NFL in a really positive, fun, yet competitive way.”
Hawaii Has Hosted The Most Pro Bowls, 29
The move to eliminate the actual Pro Bowl game was likely a longtime coming. Players are now just going through the motions, doing everything possible not to get hurt in a meaningless game. Additionally, since the league moved the Pro Bowl from Hawaii (after 2009) NFL superstars frequently skip the event with phantom injuries.
Pro Bowl week in Hawaii is a lot different than Pro Bowl week in Orlando (where the NFL held the event four consecutive years).
Skills competitions and a flag game obviously greatly reduce the risk of injury. And Las Vegas is more appealing than Orlando for most NFL players.
“You tap into all the stuff that feels great about Pro Bowl week, the skills, the helmets off, the engagement and then culminate that, keeping the AFC-NFC construct, in something that’s really important, which is flag football and that opportunity to have the best athletes in the NFL out there playing this game that is so much about the future of our sport,” O’Reilly told the AP.
This was likely an easy decision for the NFL to make and it’s easy to understand why the Pro Bowl will be no more. It also ensures that Sean Taylor’s fake punt “love tap” will remain the most iconic play in Pro Bowl history.
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