For the first time in its 72-year history, the NFL Pro Bowl won’t include a full-contact all-star game. Instead, AFC and NFC players will showcase their skills in weeklong skills competitions and a flag football game titled “The Pro Bowl Games”.
“The Pro Bowl is something that we’ve been looking at for a while, really continuing to evolve,” NFL executive Peter O’Reilly told The Associated Press. “Coming out of last year’s game, we really made the decision based on a lot of internal conversations, getting feedback from GMs and coaches, getting a lot of feedback from players. 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.
In the past, players concerned about getting hurt, have treated their Pro Bowl performance as more of an exhibition rather than a competition. The hope is that a flag football game will increase competition while avoiding potential injuries resulting from tackling, blocking and hitting.
“You definitely don’t want to get hurt,” New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowl participant, said. “It’s an all-star game, essentially, and you want to put on a good product for the fans and for yourself but at the same time, the season is over for you, essentially. You don’t want to be going into an offseason or into a contract year and getting hurt in a Pro Bowl game.”
“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,” said O’Reilly.
The 2023 Games will be held in Las Vegas, and the flag football game at Allegiant Stadium is Sunday, Feb. 5. That's just one week before the Super Bowl in Arizona.
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