New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, never one to shy away from a microphone, got in a bit of hot water recently when he said that he played football "so my kids won't have to." People tended to be offended by that thought, because such statements are generally made by people who work under much tougher conditions. Nonetheless, Scott was unbowed by that blowback, because he had some rather incendiary words for Roger Goodell after Goodell expressed concern about the level of play in the Pro Bowl.
"I really didn't think that was the kind of football that we want to be demonstrating for our fans," Goodell said in February. "And you heard it from the fans. The fans were actively booing in the stands. They didn't like what they were seeing. We're either going to have to improve the quality of what we're doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes or even considering eliminating the game if that's the kind of quality game we're going to provide. I know players love to be in Hawaii, but we have to start with the quality of what we're doing.
"If the fans are responding negatively to what we're doing, we better listen. And that was my message."
Consider Scott unimpressed.
"For him to want to comment the Pro Bowl was before his reign and it will be after his reign," Scott told the New York Post on Thursday. "It's not up to him, I believe, to cancel the Pro Bowl. It's tradition. It ain't about that. … You can't make someone go out there and blow their knee out. I'm not going to blow a receiver up coming across the middle. It's the offseason. Why? It's an exhibition game."
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Now ... while Scott seems like a genuinely good guy, and we in the media always prefer outspoken players, this one is a bit confusing. Why? Because Scott has made exactly one Pro Bowl -- back in 2006, as a alternate, after his then-teammate Ray Lewis decided not to go. He certainly deserved it that season with 78 solo tackles, 9.5 sacks, and two interceptions, but since then, he's been shut out of the process.
Nonetheless, he's very unhappy that Goodell thought about shutting the event down.
"What is he talking about? Tell him to get out there and put a jersey on," Scott ranted. "It's a part of the fabric of football. It's a celebration for everyone to enjoy and get their families out. They've earned the right to be an All-Star."
That said, Goodell isn't the only one to wonder about a game in which the offenses are tuned to Arena League and defenses are on the Madden "Rookie" setting. After the game that followed the 2011 season, Aaron Rodgers took after his NFC teammates in the wake of the AFC's 59-41 "win."
"I'll be honest with you," Rodgers told ESPN 540 in Milwaukee. "I was a little bit disappointed. I felt like some of the guys on the NFC side embarrassed themselves ... I was just surprised that some of the guys either didn't want to play or when they were in there didn't put any effort into it."
Rodgers also added that playing at a reduced rate can be a dangerous thing.
"I've always found that when you're going that tempo, that's when the injuries are going to happen, not if you're going full speed," he said. "You're more likely to get an injury standing around a pile or just going through it half-speed."
New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins spoke from the side that sees more logic in the "flag football" nature of the game. "I don't know how you fix it," he told ESPN in February. "You're going to give a little effort, but you're not going to get out of control. Some guys are free agents over there. You get hurt in a Pro Bowl and it's going to affect that contract with another team. Who would want to get hurt in a Pro Bowl and not be able to play the next season?"
Given Goodell's reactionary nature to just about everything, that would be the one thing that would have him cancelling the Pro Bowl for good. If a Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Calvin Johnson got hurt in a game that isn't even as useful as a preseason contest? You can kiss that game good-bye -- and it seems as if many already want to.
Perhaps it's time to make that week what it really should be -- a glorified vacation for the players most deserving. They can hang out in Hawaii, do some skills competitions, and give the NFL Network something to program before the Super Bowl hype gets going.
We'll even let Bart Scott show up.
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- Bart Scott
- Roger Goodell