Jared Allen, five times a Pro Bowler, isn’t a huge fan of the format changes to the game if he’s fortunate enough to make a sixth trip.
The NFL and the Players’ Association announced the alterations this week, doing away with the old AFC vs. NFC format in favor of a system that will have an 86-player draft presided over by legends Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders as well as a pair of NFL.com fantasy football standouts.
In addition, kickoffs will be eliminated. Possession will change at the end of each quarter. And in the final two minutes of every quarter, the clock will stop if the offense doesn’t gain at least a yard.
After Friday’s practice, we asked Allen about the event itself and the changes. He had plenty to say. Here it is:
“The Pro Bowl is great. But it was better when it was after the Super Bowl. It really was. Because it was truly about the players. It was truly about the all-stars. And what you notice is you had more of the players going every year. Guys would come straight from the Super Bowl and go. And I think we had a better quality game just because we felt it was a true celebration of the all-stars and it was our week.
"When they moved it before the Super Bowl and moved it to Miami and stuff like that, it became about TV ratings and then you had all these alternates going. Because guys weren’t going if they were in the Super Bowl. And you really feel like [now], the guys who are making the Super Bowl, not that they’re being punished, but I remember my first Pro Bowl. It was one of the greatest times of my career. Just the idea of being an all-star, being in that group.
“These new rules I hear about, it’s kind of disappointing. I think there wasn’t anything wrong with it as far as AFC-NFC. Sometimes we try to change tradition and I don’t know why. I guess I can kind of see if you’re going to take the best six at each position or whatever it is, I don’t know all the rules.
"Eliminating kickoff? That’s part of the game. At some point, how many rules of the game do you change where we don’t have football anymore. Football is football from its purest form. From kickoff, kickoff return and not to mention now you’re taking a Pro Bowl spot away from a guy, from a Josh Cribbs [a return specialist now in Oakland.] Percy Harvin made his first Pro Bowl as a return guy. And so for me, I think you’re cheating the players. So I’m personally not for it. But obviously we don’t have any say in it.
“Now you have fantasy players that are going to draft these teams. We could have guys from the same team playing against each other, away from each other and you lose that camaraderie of going there with your teammates and having fun. And honestly, you build friendships throughout the league. So again, I’m disappointed that it’s come to this and that we’re always trying to find new ways to create new ratings, create new fan experiences. At some point it’s got to be about the players. This is our honor. And they should at least talk to us before they make these changes.”
Asked if he’d rather have the game done away, Allen said no.
“I think it’s a special time. I really do. I was hurt last year and I went over there. There were a handful of us who were going to have surgery after the Pro Bowl. Because you do, you respect the fact that your peers voted you into a game, that your peers and the coaching staff and the fans thought you were an all-star and you got honored for that body of work that year. And that still means something to me. It really does. And from what I understand we still have the voting process but now it’s not NFC-AFC. But then you’re going to have the whole draft and that kind of thing. And now a 2-minute drill at the end of everything. I mean, you might as well have 7-on-7, sign some autographs and hang out by the pool.”
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