POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 01:49 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
When Mat McBriar last played in Aloha Stadium, he figured he'd be back. He just didn't think it would take quite this long.
The former University of Hawaii punter will return to the stadium on Sunday for his second Pro Bowl appearance to cap his seventh season with the Dallas Cowboys.
"My first time I took it for granted a little bit," McBriar said yesterday after the NFC completed its practice at Kapolei High School. "It's been a little while. ... It's great to be back."
While the Cowboys struggled through an otherwise disappointing season, McBriar earned a spot on the roster by leading the league with an average of 47.9 yards on his 65 punts, dropping 22 inside the opponents' 20.
McBriar completed his UH career in 2002, and his average of 42.2 yards still ranks second in school history behind Jason Elam. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection following the 2006 season and just missed making the team the next year.
He was passed over the following two seasons as well, despite posting career-best numbers but earned a return this year thanks in part to a career-best net average of 41.7 yards.
This year's invitation coincides with the game's return to Oahu after spending a year in Miami, and McBriar is relishing a taste of island life again.
"Everyone's thrilled that it's back here," McBriar said. "This is its proper place.
"It's a great way to kind of finish off the season, especially when we're not quite sure when next season is going to be."
Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin and assistant coach Cal Lee took a brief break from recruiting to stop by the AFC's practice yesterday morning.
McMackin was looking to meet up with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. McMackin coached Lewis during his tenure as a Miami (Fla.) assistant and got to know Welker when he was the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech.
Matt Cassel planned to thank former Patriots teammate Tom Brady for his trip to Hawaii this week.
Brady, elected to his fifth Pro Bowl, underwent surgery on his right foot 10 days ago, forcing him to pull out of the game.
Cassel, who threw for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns to seven interceptions, took Brady's place and said after practice yesterday he'd be sure to thank the QB he backed up in New England for four years.
"I'm going to go to the beach and send him a picture a little bit later," the first-year Pro Bowler joked.
The return of Pro Bowl practices after a year's absence made for a bit more buzz around the Kapolei campus.
Most onlookers were kept well away from the field yesterday, but some of the students will have a chance to watch today's practices from the bleachers.
"It's so much fun for the whole school," Kapolei football coach Darren Hernandez said.
Kapolei athletic director Darren Camello said NFL personnel keep in touch with school officials to provide insight on keeping the field in solid shape so it'll be ready for the league's stars. Camello credited Pat Teramoto for preparing the field and the school's coaching staffs for maintaining it despite the wear of practices and games.
Pro Bowl practices shift to Ihilani Resort and Spa tomorrow and to Aloha Stadium on Saturday.
Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs was waiting patiently to do a quick interview for NFL Network during practice when he heard the whistle of AFC coach Bill Belichick.
He turned to leave when the cameraman for the network, which televised both practices live yesterday, implored him to stick around for the interview.
Without breaking stride, Suggs turned and yelled, "I don't want to piss off Belichick," before putting on his helmet.
» Practice: At Kapolei High School, 9 a.m. NFC; 10:30 a.m. AFC
» NFL Community Blitz events: 1 to 4 p.m. at Ihilani Resort, Schofield Barracks, Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base; Pearl Harbor/Hickam
» Team picture/practice: At Ihilani Resort, 8 a.m. AFC with practice to follow; 9:30 a.m. NFC with practice to follow
» Cheerleaders: At Ala Moana Center Stage, 5 to 5:45 p.m. Fans can enjoy performances by the 2011 Pro Bowl cheerleaders and attend a meet-and-greet session at Center Stage. Some of the top NFL players and cheerleaders will be on hand to sign autographs and take pictures.
» Practice: At Aloha Stadium, 9:30 a.m. AFC; 10:30 a.m. NFC
» Pro Bowl game: AFC vs. NFC, 2 p.m. kickoff at Aloha Stadium