Congrats to Russell Wilson for being the only quarterback (of six voted in) to attend the Pro Bowl. In a statistical anomaly, he will be playing alongside the entire Bengals Pro Bowl roster (all six are on team Irvin).
The NFL doesn’t care who shows up at the Pro Bowl, they just want people to tune in and watch. Unfortunately more and more fans have been tuning out lately because of the goofy new format, and because
most players could care less about the game.
My Take: While the National Hockey League has taken an extreme zero-tolerance stance to make sure players are skating in their All-Star game by dishing out mandatory one-game suspensions (See the suspensions NHL’s two biggest stars in Ovechkin and Toews, who are legitimately nursing an injury and an illness, respectively), the NFL has taken the laissez faire approach and could care less what excuses players make (this week, all seven Patriots voted in declined the Pro Bowl invitation due to “injury”). In my opinion, NFL players need to at least acknowledge the votes of NFL fans and show up to the game. Although most NFL players have shorter careers and many are not paid as well as some in other sports, the fans pay their salary through ticket prices, merchandise, and TV viewing. In addition, this game is at the end of the season, which does not interfere with 2nd half postseason runs.
The NFL needs to step in and take some form of action. The Pro Bowl isn’t going anywhere. When is the last time the NFL added less TV programming? They’ve turned the draft into a 3-day bonanza, the scouting combine into a “made for TV” week long event, and have five regional combine events scheduled before, during, and after the scouting combine. The Pro Bowl ratings may be slipping, but they are still solid enough to place the event above most playoff ratings of other sports.
Watch for the NFL to turn the Pro Bowl into a week long battle-of-the-stars ego skills competition, ending with an AFC-NFC flag football game.
For what its worth, here are the AFC North participants:
Team Irvin: G Marshal Yanda, P Sam Koch
Team Rice: LB Elvis Dumervil, LS Morgan Cox
Team Irvin: Alex Mack
Team Rice: TE Gary Barnidge, OT Joe Thomas
Not playing: OT Mitchell Schwartz
Team Irvin: DT Geno Adkins (captain), AJ Green, TE Tyler Eifert, OT Andrew Whitworth, DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Adam Jones
Not playing: G Kevin Zeitler
Team Irvin: G David DeCastro
Not playing: Q Ben Roethlisberger, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Antonio Brown