NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The NFL Pro Bowl will go on as scheduled in 2014.
But it won’t be the same. At all.
The NFL has done away with its traditional AFC vs. NFC format. Instead, participants “will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft,” the league and its players’ union announced on Wednesday.
Players will be selected “without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players,” the NFL said.
In other words, the top vote-getters will be sent to the game — period. The conferences won’t necessarily have an even number of players — in total or at each position — in the draft pool.
The teams will be selected by team captains, with Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice assisting as alumni captains.
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth said in a statement. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
The NFL will also give the boot to kickoffs during the Pro Bowl. Goodell opened a can of worms last year when he said he’d consider Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano’s radical proposal to eliminate regular-season kickoffs.
“The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first,” the league said. “The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.”
Other changes are coming to the game, too.
The ball will change hands at the end of each quarter, which could double the opportunities for two-minute drills. Defenses will be allowed to play cover-2 and press coverage in addition to man, and several clock tweaks have been instituted to speed up the game and prompt offensive play.
“We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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.”
The draft will be televised by the NFL Network on Jan. 22. The game will be played Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
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