No joke: Pro Bowl to be more serious
HONOLULU -- The NFC team ended its first Pro Bowl practice by breaking the huddle and shouting, "Win." One night earlier, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning asked his fellow all-stars to play the game hard.
And players on both sides pledged Wednesday to play more determined in a game with a reputation of being taken less seriously than preseason exhibitions or meaningless Week 17 contests.
"We’re professional football players. I think you take a professional attitude to the game," said Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, one of two rookie passers in the game along with Seattle’s Russell Wilson. "It is an obligation of ours to continue this game."
The future of the game to be held Sunday in Hawaii is uncertain. The contest was almost not scheduled at all this year after players faced blowback from commissioner Roger Goodell and fans for clearly not trying last year.
That’s made the 2013 Pro Bowl something of an audition. A league executive said Tuesday the NFL wants to decide on the future of the Pro Bowl by April, when the next regular season schedule comes out.
Manning responded later that night by urging players to play at full speed, according to a report by NFL.com. NFL officials said Wednesday a transcript of Manning’s speech wasn’t available, and Manning was not made available for comment after his team’s practice.
The AFC and NFC squads showed slightly different styles during a low key practice at a high school on Oahu’s west side, with players barely breaking a sweat while wearing T-shirts and shorts.
Manning and Luck took the field at the same time for passing drills to AFC receivers like Houston’s Andre Johnson, Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green.
The NFC practice included 7-on-7 scrimmage plays, special teams practice with punts and field goals and plenty of passes for Drew Brees, Eli Mannning and Wilson.
While some players, including Brees, spent time signing autographs for fans waiting just outside a campus gate, others didn’t linger around after practice as a bus promptly returned them to the team hotel.
Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz joked that he might take a surfing lesson before saying he thinks the game will be well-played.
When asked what the Green Bay coaches on the NFC side might think of him hitting the waves, Cruz said: "That’ll be our secret."
Brees said the Pro Bowl is important in part because it’s a big moment for Hawaii, a state without an NFL team.
"There’s so many guys who come out here and take this with a sense of responsibility," Brees said.
Denver cornerback Champ Bailey says players should take the honor of a Pro Bowl seriously because they never know when they will get the opportunity to return.
"This is a tradition that needs to keep going," Bailey said. "That’s the only way we’re going to keep it going, is if we come over here and take it seriously."
Pro Bowl rosters
Quarterbacks -- x-Tom Brady, New England; s-Peyton Manning, Denver; Matt Schaub, Houston; r-Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
Running Backs -- Jamaal Charles, Kansas City; s-Arian Foster, Houston; y-Ray Rice, Baltimore; r-C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
Fullback -- y-Vonta Leach, Baltimore; r-Marcel Reece, Oakland
Wide Receivers -- s-A.J. Green, Cincinnati; s-Andre Johnson, Houston; Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis; x-Wes Welker, New England; r-Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Tight Ends -- x-Rob Gronkowski, New England; x-Heath Miller, Pittsburgh; r-Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati; r-Owen Daniels, Houston
Tackles -- s-Duane Brown, Houston; x-Ryan Clady, Denver; s-Joe Thomas, Cleveland; y-r-Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati;
Guards -- x-Logan Mankins, New England; y- Marshall Yanda, Baltimore; Wade Smith, Houston; r-Zane Beadles, Denver; r-Richie Incognito, Miami
Centers -- Chris Myers, Houston; s-Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh
Ends -- Elvis Dumervil, Denver; s-Cameron Wake, Miami; s-J.J. Watt, Houston
Interior Linemen -- s-Geno Atkins, Cincinnati; y-Haloti Ngata, Baltimore; x-Vince Wilfork, New England; r-Kyle Williams, Buffalo; r-Randy Starks, Miami
Outside Linebackers -- s-Tamba Hali, Kansas City; Robert Mathis, Indianapolis; s-Von Viller, Denver
Inside/Middle Linebackers -- Derrick Johnson, Kansas City; s-Jerod Mayo, New England
Cornerbacks -- s-Champ Bailey, Denver; Antonio Cromartie, N.Y. Jets; s-Johnathan Joseph, Houston
Strong Safeties -- s-Eric Berry, Kansas City; LaRon Landry, N.Y. Jets
Free Safety -- y-Ed Reed, Baltimore; r-Jairus Byrd, Buffalo
Placekicker -- Phil Dawson, Cleveland
Punter -- Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City
Kick Returner -- y-Jacoby Jones, Baltimore; r-Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland
Special Team -- Matthew Slater, New England
Long Snapper -- John Denney, Miami
Quarterbacks -- x-Robert Griffin III, Washington; x-Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay; x-Matt Ryan, Atlanta; r-Drew Brees, New Orleans; r-Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants; r-Russell Wilson, Seattle
Running Backs -- y-Frank Gore, San Francisco; Marshawn Lynch, Seattle; s-Adrian Peterson, Minnesota; r-Doug Martin, Tampa Bay
Fullback -- s-Jerome Felton, Minnesota
Wide Receivers -- Victor Cruz, N.Y. Giants; x-Calvin Johnson, Detroit; Julio Jones, Atlanta; s-Brandon Marshall, Chicago; r-Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay
Tight Ends -- s-Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta; Jason Witten, Dallas
Tackles -- Russes-ll Okung, Seattle; y-Joe Staley, San Francisco; Trent Williams, Washington; r-Jermon Bushrod, New Orleans
Guards -- s-Jahri Evans, New Orleans; y-Mike Iupati, San Francisco; Chris Snee, N.Y. Giants; r-Josh Sitton, Green Bay
Centers -- Jeff Saturday, Green Bay; s-Max Unger, Seattle
Ends -- Jared Allen, Minnesota; s-Julius Peppers, Chicago; s-Jason Pierre-Paul, N.Y. Giants
Interior Linemen -- Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay; s-Henry Melton, Chicago; y-Justin Smith, San Francisco; r-Ndamukong Suh, Detroit
Outside Linebackers -- x-Clay Matthews, Green Bay; y-Aldon Smith, San Francisco; x-DeMarcus Ware, Dallas; r-Chad Greenway, Minnesota; r-Ryan Kerrigan, Washington; r-Anthony Spencer, Dallas
Inside/Middle Linebackers -- y-NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco; y-Patrick Willis, San Francisco; r-Daryl Washington, Arizona; r-London Fletcher, Washington
Cornerbacks -- s-Tim Jennings, Chicago; Patrick Peterson, Arizona; s-Charles Tillman, Chicago
Strong Safeties -- y-Donte Whitner, San Francisco; r-Thomas DeCoud, Atlanta
Free Safeties -- y-Dashon Goldson, San Francisco; Earl Thomas, Seattle; r-William Moore, Atlanta
Placekicker -- Blair Walsh, Minnesota
Punter -- Thomas Morstead, New Orleans
Kick Returner -- Leon Washington, Seattle
Special Team -- Lorenzo Alexander, Washington
Long Snapper -- Don Muhlbach, Detroit
x-injured; r-replacement; s-starter; y-participating in Super Bowl
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