The NFL has added McDonald’s as a presenting sponsor, changed a 43-year old format and will dispense with kickoffs for a new-look 2014 Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium, the league and the NFL Players Association announced today.
The game will be played Jan. 26 and shown on NBC.
In place of the traditional AFC vs. NFC format that has been employed since 1971, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players, the league said. As an example, the six leading quarterbacks in the voting will be all-stars regardless of how many are from AFC or NFC teams.
The Pro Bowl draft to determine which team players will be assigned to will be held Jan. 22 at a Hawaii site yet to be named and be shown on the NFL Network.
The two leading vote getters will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions to draft players. One of these champions will earn their spot as part of Lenovo’s Fantasy Coach of the Year program. The other champion can compete for a Pro Bowl role by playing at NFL.com/fantasy.”
The fantasy football champions will have help from Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, who will serve as alumni team captains, assisting the Pro Bowl team captains and fantasy football champions in the draft.
Hawaii Tourism Authority spokesman Michael Story said, “the new format for selecting the teams should bring greater interest to the game.” Story said, having the draft held in Hawaii, “will provide additional exposure for the state”
NFL Players Association head Dominique Foxworth said, “As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment. To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth. 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.”
Other changes to the Pro Bowl include:
Game within the Game — A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
No Kickoffs — The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
Rosters — The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
Cover Two and Press Coverage — The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage. In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
Stopping of the Game Clock — Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
Game Timing — The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
Play Clock — A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
Sacks — The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.