NFL Pro Bowl To Undergo Major Changes


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Major sports all-star games have long been criticized for a lack of effort on the part of the athletes and therefore a lack of entertainment. The newest changes the NFL have made to their Pro Bowl probably won't go too far toward remedying that situation.

The most glaring change is the elimination of the traditional league format that most all star games rely on. MLB has National league vs. American League, the NBA has East vs. West, and until this point the NFL had followed that paradigm with AFC vs. NFC. In place of the conference vs. conference arrangement the NFL will adopt a draft system that will see teams of players from each conference playing together.

In the new system the two top votes getters for the game will be named captains. They will then be assisted NFL greats Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice in picking 43 players each to round out the rosters.

Other changes have been made to the structure of the game. Those changes are designed to make the game safer in order to avoid injuries to the NFL's biggest stars, as well as to speed up the game. For instance, the clock can be restarted after an incomplete pass when the referee signals for it. The play clock has also been shortened.

The most controversial change is that the game will no longer feature kickoffs, and therefore no kickoff returners. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the beginning of the game and after scoring plays. This omission is already drawing sharp criticism from Josh Cribbs, one of the league's perennial pro bowl returners.

While the change to a draft format follows in the footsteps of the NHL, which adopted a similar system starting in the 2010-2011 season, the changes to the format will likely be met with increased criticism from fans, as well as players like Cribbs who will no longer be commended for their talents with a spot in the game.