The NFL, making good on its pledge to make changes to the Pro Bowl in a bid to boost fan interest in the all-star exhibition game, announced Wednesday it is scrapping the game’s traditional AFC vs. NFC format in favor of having players drafted on to two teams.
The league also announced a variety of rule changes for the Pro Bowl, including the elimination of kickoffs.
“We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique [Foxworth, the president of the NFL Players Association] and the players put forth,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement. “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.”
Goodell previously had threatened to eliminate the Pro Bowl if the league and players’ union could not find ways to make the game more competitive and attractive to fans. But Goodell backed off that threat and called the level of play at last season’s game improved.
According to the league’s announcement, the players to participate in the game will be selected by fans, coaches and players without regard to conference affiliation. All of the quarterbacks in the game, for instance, could come from the same conference.
The players will be divided into two teams for the Pro Bowl through a draft. Two players who are among the leading vote-getters for the game will serve as captains, along with two fans and honorary captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, according to the NFL’s announcement. Pro Bowl rosters will consist of 43 players per team, with the return specialist for each team now being replaced by an extra defensive back.
The draft will be carried Jan. 22 by the league-owned NFL Network. The game is scheduled for Jan. 26 in Honolulu.
●INJURIES: The number of injuries that forced a player to miss at least eight days jumped every year from 2009 to 2012, according to an analysis of NFL injury data. The study by Edgeworth Economics, based on information collected by the league, also shows that players with concussions missed an average of 16 days last season, up from only four days in 2005, while the length of time out for other types of injuries has been steadier.
“Severe injuries are increasing in frequency,” Jesse David, the economist overseeing the study, said in a telephone interview from Pasadena, Calif. David said his company has done consulting for the NFLPA in the past and received the data for this study from the union but wasn’t paid by it.
The study says there were 1,095 instances of injuries sidelining a player for eight or more days in 2009 — including practices and games in the preseason, regular season and postseason — and that climbed to 1,272 in 2010, 1,380 in 2011 and 1,496 in 2012. That’s an increase of 37 percent.
●EAGLES: Wide receiver Riley Cooper was fined by the team for making a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert that was caught on video, leading him to say he’s “ashamed and disgusted” with himself. The video of Cooper making the slur surfaced Wednesday on the Internet. Cooper is entering his fourth season in the NFL.
●BRONCOS: Ryan Lilja will step out of retirement to reunite with Peyton Manning.
The veteran offensive lineman agreed to terms with Denver, desperate for a starting center following a season-ending knee injury to Dan Koppen.
Lilja, who turns 32 in October, has quite a bit of familiarity with Manning after playing guard for five seasons in Indianapolis.
●BILLS: Mario Williams requires rest and treatment to allow his sore left foot time to heal, Coach Doug Marrone said after the defensive end returned to training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., following a two-day absence.