AFC and NFC stars will no longer face off, with the best in the league to be mixed.
A revamped National Football League all-star game with 88 gridiron greats from this past season will be unveiled Sunday when the Pro Bowl kicks off at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium.
Revisions include the scrapping of the old format pitting stars from the American and National Conferences against each other, which had been used since 1971.
Instead, players were selected by fans, coaches and players without regard to conference affiliation, each group contributing one-third of the total input on the final roster, the fans making more than 100 million votes.
Hall of Fame former players Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice were made team captains and each selected a squad in a draft format much the way “fantasy football” teams are chosen by fans in friendly contests with results based upon NFL game statistics.
Each 44-player roster includes 21 offensive players and 18 defensive players plus five specialists such as punters and kickers.
Sanders has Carolina’s Cam Newton, Andrew Luck of Indianapolis and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles as quarterbacks while Rice’s passers are Drew Brees of New Orleans, Philip Rivers of San Diego and Kansas City’s Alex Smith.
Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano will guide Team Sanders with Team Rice is coached by Carolina coach Ron Rivera.
No players from Denver or Seattle are on the squads because they will play in the Super Bowl for the NFL crown on February 2 at East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The Pro Bowl had sparked complaints that it was becoming dull with little defense being played.
“The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Some rule changes were made as well with two-minute warnings stopping play in every quarter and changes of ball possession at the end of every quarter, trying to produce more dramatics such as those used at the ends of games.
No kickoffs will be employed with a coin toss deciding which team is awarded the game’s opening possession.
The ball will be placed at the 25-yard line for each team after scoring plays and at the start of each quarter.
Defensive units will be allowed to play more complex coverages, rather than only the man-to-man marking mandated previously until goal-line situations.
In the last two minutes of every quarter, if an offense does not gain at least one yard the clock will stop, forcing teams to try and gain yardage even if they want to run the final seconds off the clokc.
A 35-second play clock will be used rather than a 40-second one.
Time will continue to tick off the clock after incomplete passes except inside the final two minutes of the second quarter and the last five minutes of the fourth quarter.
The clock also will not stop after quarterback sacks except for the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.