Just about every fan of NFL football would agree that the Pro Bowl could use a little spice. Seeing all of the NFL All-Stars together in Orlando Florida is in itself, quite interesting. In some cases, there are players that were competing against each other all season. Some as late as the divisional playoffs two weeks ago. Now find themselves schmoozing, peacocking, and just hanging out. As for the Pro Bowl game itself? It usually ranks on the excitement scale somewhere between brushing your teeth and taking a nap.
In the 2020 Pro Bowl, the NFL will experiment with a few rule changes that may or may not gain some excitement for its viewers.
Pro Bowl will be “kicking” the Tires on Some Proposed Rule Changes
This week in Orlando the NFL will test eliminating kickoffs. Most will remember this as a rule first proposed in the Alliance of American Football this past spring, in order to cut down on player injuries. After scores, or at the beginning of each half, a team will take possession of the ball at the 25-yard line. As we saw with the AAF, this did not change the flow of the game whatsoever. When you take into account the needless crashing that takes place on a kickoff, coupled with most kickoffs now sailing through the end zone. Placing the ball at the 25-yard line to start each drive is smart and will reduce unnecessary injuries.
Many players begin their careers proving themselves on special teams. What isn’t so special are holding calls, block in the back penalties or needless concussions. It seems like the worst way you can start a game is with an immediate stoppage for penalty or injury. Just look back at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers week one matchup in 2015.
Giving Desperation a Fighting Chance
Also being tested in this weekend’s Pro Bowl is the elimination of the onside kick. Teams that would have considered attempting one can now get a fourth and 15 play from their own 25-yard line. Convert the play, continue the drive. Otherwise, the other team will take possession of the ball from the dead-ball spot. Watching the Atlanta Falcons recover two straight onside kicks in their Thanksgiving Day loss to the New Orleans Saints was pretty exciting (both can be seen here). But adding this new dimension for a team that is behind and willing to risk it all to retain possession is even more exciting. This could prove quite exciting in a league where games have proven to be much closer as of late.
The Denver Broncos had proposed a rule change last offseason that would give teams the chance to use the fourth and 15 scenario once a game. It could only have been used in the fourth quarter and would have been from the 35-yard line, not the 25. The rule was not ratified by the owners which must approve a rule change with at least 24 of 32 votes. The competition committee endorsed the rule 7-1 and the Pro Bowl is giving the league a chance to see the proposed rule in action. Beats watching the “Team Sanders” gimmick.
At Least It’s Something
Buccaneer fans all agree that seeing Mike Evans play defense in last year’s Pro Bowl was the highlight of the game. Both Evans and Godwin were selected to this year’s squad but are both healing from season-ending injuries. The Buccaneers will be represented in Orlando by 2019 NFL sack leader and new Buccaneer All-Time sack leader, Shaquil Barrett. If Barrett should get the chance to play offense, the smart money would be to put him in at running back.
Its good to see the NFL moving at a pace slightly faster than a snail. The shield protects the product because the product supports the shield. Now somebody get on the phone and inform the shield that they need to walk those pass interference replays all the way back to Canton. As much as that rule change seemed necessary following last years NFC Championship game. The change proved too drastic and was not equally enforced this past season. These rule changes for the Pro Bowl give the game just a little bit of flavor without any of the indigestion. A perfect Orlando appetizer for next weeks main event a little further south in Miami Florida.
Photo credit: NFL.com