New-look Pro Bowl will choose sides in a fantasy-style draft

Peyton Manning #18 of the AFC's Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning #18 of the AFC's Denver Broncos talks with brother, Eli Manning #10 of the NFC's Giants after the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl (Jan. 27, 2013) (Credit: Getty)

The Pro Bowl is getting a much-needed facelift.

The often dull all-star game between players from the AFC and NFC is being overhauled, beginning with the game that will be played at the end of this upcoming season. The biggest change will be to the rosters as players will no longer represent their conference but be selected in a fantasy draft-style selection process several days before the game.

"As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment," NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth said. "To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas."

The new structure was announced on Wednesday by the NFL and NFLPA in a statement that said the changes would make the Pro Bowl “the ultimate fan-friendly celebration of the game.”

The sides will be drafted by Hall of Famers and honorary team captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders along with the two leading vote getters and – get this! – two fans who are fantasy football champions on NFL.com.

It could create for some interesting matchups. Imagine Victor Cruz catching a touchdown pass from Manning -- Peyton Manning! Or how about Eli Manning being sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul. Or Mark Sanchez throwing to … well, let’s not get crazy. It’s still the Pro Bowl and the participants will be selected based on position in voting by fans, coaches and players as they have been in the past.

There are a few other rules changes for 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."
• Also, 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 and not sit on the ball.
• 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. In other words, no kickoffs.
• The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
• 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.
• The game will be faster as the 40-second play clock will be replaced by a 35-second version; 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; and the game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game.

“The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We think these changes will enhance the game for both fans and players."

The 2014 Pro Bowl will be played on January 26 in Hawaii, a week before Super Bowl XLVIII is played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The team selection draft will be held on January 22.

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