One of the NFL’s biggest problems had been motivating players to be more physical than a flag football game during the Pro Bowl.
However, the NFL may have a new problem.
Convincing players it is just an exhibition game.
This year’s game had plenty of hitting and players were not as tentative as in past years. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (Team Rice) was the first person who realized the difference.
On the second play of the game, Brees was sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (Team Sanders). McCoy gently tackled Brees, but Bills linebacker Mario Williams (Team Sanders) ran through Brees on the next play.
Players did not ease up on their teammates either.
Instead of an AFC vs NFC format, players were selected to participate on Team (Deion) Sanders or Team (Jerry) Rice. That meant some players from the same team would face each other. If you thought that meant they would look out for each other, it was the wrong assumption.
Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson (Team Rice) applied a devastating hit to running back Jamaal Charles (Team Sanders) during the Pro Bowl. Johnson applied a hit to Charles' helmet. Considering Charles sustained a concussion injury during the playoffs, that was a bad move.
In addition, Browns safety T.J. Ward (Team Sanders) flipped teammate Josh Gordon (Team Rice) during the game.
And for good measure, here's one more loop: Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly putting the hurt on Panthers teammate Mike Tolbert in the second quarter:
It was good to see more action during this year’s Pro Bowl. The game is far from perfect – those uniforms were ugly – but at least players finally acted like they cared.
And that is a good problem to have.
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- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Pro Bowl