The NFL is willing to radically change its Pro Bowl format, but not quite enough to put Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders back on the field for its annual all-star game.
Sanders, who will be one of the captains for the Jan. 26 game at Aloha Stadium, tweeted today, “Ladies and Gentlemen I am officially announcing “I WILL SUIT UP IN HAWAII” Please let @JerryRice know that a real captain leads by example!”
Sanders also notified Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson that his jersey number 21 might not be available to him, tweeting, “@RealPeterson21 u may have to wear another number in the pro bowl for #teamDeion because your Captain may play in the #Probowl! WHAT!!!”
But Brian McCarthy NFL spokesman told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “like NFL fans and those of us at the league, Deion’s pumped for the Pro Bowl, but he and Jerry won’t be playing in the game.”
Sanders and Rice were earlier named as the team captains for the new-look all-star game that will no longer have an NFC vs. AFC format.
They will “draft” rosters for the game next week and a three-hour prime-time broadcast from the beach at Ko Olina will air Jan. 22 on the NFL Network.
Last month Rice noted Sanders’ non-appearance for a media teleconference, saying, “I can tell Deion (Sanders) is afraid of me.”
The institution of a “draft” comes as the NFL attempts to perk up interest and TV ratings for a game that commissioner Roger Goodell had considered scrapping a year ago after a lackluster performance by players in 2012 and declining TV viewership.
Rice and Sanders are to be assisted by two active player captains and an NFL.com fantasy football champion.