National and American league teams to be mixed up to spice up the end-of-season clash.
The National Football League announced several major changes to the Pro Bowl all-star game in hopes of boosting interest in the annual talent showcase played in Hawaii.
The league and its players union revealed that the long-time format of teams from the National and American conferences is being scrapped in favor of a draft format assigning players to different squads.
Hall of Fame former receivers Jerry Rice and Deion sanders will serve as alumni captains, selecting the two rosters in a draft format with help from two fans from the fantasy gridiron game played on the NFL’s website.
Fans, coaches and players will vote to decide the pool of talent available to draft for the 2014 Pro Bowl on January 22 with the game to be played four days later at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium on the Sunday before the Super Bowl.
In addition to the new roster format, gridiron rules have been altered for the Pro Bowl, including no kickoffs. A coin toss will decide which team gets the ball first and the ball will be placed at a team’s 25-yard line after scoring plays by opponents.
Possession of the ball will change after each quarter, with only 35 seconds to run plays rather than the usual 40-second play clock.
Teams will each have 43 players, with no more kick return specialist selected. Instead, each team will have an extra defensive back selected,
Teams will be allowed to play more sophisticated defensive alignments, after previously being restricted to man-to-man coverages.
In the final two minutes of every quarter, the clock will stop if the offensive unit does not gain at least one yard, forcing teams to attempt to gain yardage in the final plays of each quarter.
The new ideas were put forth by NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth and in some cases the Pro Bowl could be used as a test case for studying broader use of the new ideas.
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” said Foxworth. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had been looking for ways to bolster the Pro Bowl, which had become high-scoring affairs with often lackluster defense and lukewarm fan interest.
“We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth,” Goodell said. “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.”
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” said NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth, who proposed the changes to the game. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.