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NFL considers eliminating the Pro Bowl

The NFL is considering the potential elimination of the Pro Bowl. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
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ATLANTA — The NFL is considering the possible elimination of the Pro Bowl, potentially replacing it with other events to honor all-star players and showcase their skills.

The issue was discussed by team owners and league officials during Tuesday’s quarterly NFL owners meeting in Atlanta, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

According to that person, the league is dissatisfied with the quality of play and is considering alternatives to the Pro Bowl that could include a seven-on-seven passing competition. Such a move would allow quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive players to compete without any tackling or blocking.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said later Tuesday that the issue was being discussed with the NFL Players Association.

“I think what we tried to lay out is what we’ve been talking to the NFLPA about and many of our players individually,” Goodell said. “I’ve spoken to several players myself about what works and what doesn’t work. I think the conclusion was that the game itself doesn’t work and that we needed to find a different way to celebrate our players, celebrate the fact of these being our Pro Bowl players and the best players in our league, and give them an opportunity to celebrate that with our fans.”

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No decisions were made Tuesday, and it wasn’t clear when the league will resolve the matter.

“We talked an awful lot about some of the events around the Pro Bowl are really extraordinarily popular, whether it’s the quarterback challenge or some of the other events,” Goodell said. “So those are things that we’ll probably go with.”

Goodell and other league officials have been critical in the past of the quality of play at the Pro Bowl, with players reluctant to risk injury during what amounts to an exhibition game. But the game has continued to draw decent television viewership, and to this point the NFL has resisted eliminating the game entirely.

The league also said it will keep the NFL combine in Indianapolis in 2023 and 2024. The NFL has considered moving the event to another city but, for now, will keep it in its longtime home venue. The combine has been based in Indianapolis since 1987.

Dallas and Los Angeles had been mentioned as potential alternatives.

“I think it’s, one, a recognition that Indianapolis really values the combine [and], also, that they’ve done a terrific job on it,” Goodell said. “I think people are comfortable with that opportunity because we’ve done it for so long.”