The NFL is replacing the Pro Bowl with weekly skills competitions and a flag football game, the league announced Monday.
The new event will replace the full-contact showcase that began in 1951. It will be renamed “The Pro Bowl Games” and will feature AFC and NFC players showcasing their football and non-football skills in several days of challenges. The 2023 Games will be held in Las Vegas, and the flag football game at Allegiant Stadium is Feb. 5.
Peyton Manning and his Omaha Productions company will help design shows and develop event content throughout the week. Manning, a 14-time Pro Bowl selection during his Hall of Fame career, will provide his perspective and be part of the coaching staff for the pennant game.
“The Pro Bowl is something we’ve been looking at for a while and really continues to evolve,” NFL executive Peter O’Reilly told The Associated Press. “Coming out of last year’s game, we made a decision based on a lot of internal conversations, getting feedback from GMs and coaches, getting a lot of feedback from the players. We think there’s a real opportunity here to do something completely different and move. The traditional tackle is moving away from the game of football and into the NFL. We decided that the goal was to celebrate the 88 biggest stars in a very positive, fun, but competitive way.
“Having direct feedback from the guys who were in the Pro Bowl recently, keep the structure of the week and make sure you have that multiday element. It’s been very positive from both the players and the clubs.”
The Pro Bowl debuted in Los Angeles in January 1951 and remained there for 21 seasons before the game moved to different cities from 1972 to 1980. Hawaii hosted from 1980 to 2009, and the game has had several homes over the years, including Miami. Phoenix, Orlando and Las Vegas.
The quality of play in the Pro Bowl is often criticized. Players who are understandably concerned about getting injured see it as more of an exhibition than a competition. A flag football game increases competition while avoiding potential injuries from tackling, blocking and hitting.
The NFL has a lot of interest in flag football. The league partnered with the International American Soccer Federation to bring flag football to the World Games in July with a view to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“You tap into Pro Bowl week, the skills, the helmets off, the engagement, and then, with the AFC-NFC structure, one of the most important things, flag football and the opportunity for the future of our game to be played by the best athletes in the NFL. ” said O’Reilly, the league’s executive vice president of club business and league events. “It’s been an evolution, but coming out of Las Vegas last year, we focused on how to better innovate and celebrate our stars.”
“The Pro Bowl is always a time to step back and celebrate the game of football with teammates, fans and family,” Manning told the AP. “Everyone at Omaha Productions is grateful to continue to be a part of the week as they work with the NFL to reinvent The Pro Bowl Games. For me, knowing the NFL flag will help grow the game, and I hope boys and girls can see themselves playing as the best players in the world.”
Fan voting will still help determine the AFC and NFC rosters. Tom Brady Most invitations to the Pro Bowl are 15. Four players received 14 invitations, including Manning. The East-West Bowl is Feb. 2 at Allegiant Stadium.
In 1999, Robert Edwards suffered knee ligament damage and severed an artery in his left leg while playing an NFL-sanctioned beach flag football game during Pro Bowl week. He missed the entire 1999 and 2000 seasons while rehabbing the knee.
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