NFL Pro Bowl turns into fantasy showcase

NFL Pro Bowl turns into fantasy showcase
July 31, 2013, 11:15 am
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Former 49ers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders -- both Hall of Famers -- will serve as alumni captains. (AP)

What's happening on the practice field in Santa Clara this summer could be replayed in late-January in Honolulu.

The NFL is doing away with the familiar NFC vs AFC Pro Bowl. Instead, when the Pro Bowl is played on Jan. 26, 2014, the teams will be determined via a draft, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced today.

Players selected to the Pro Bowl will then be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, in which two leading vote getters will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions to draft players.

Former 49ers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders -- both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- will serve as alumni captains. Rice and Sanders will assist the Pro Bowl team captains and fantasy football champions in the draft process.

So, don't be surprised if 49ers running back Frank Gore runs into the line only to find defensive lineman Justin Smith waiting for him. And if Colin Kaepernick scrambles outside the pocket, Aldon Smith could be in hot pursuit.

The Pro Bowl player draft will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 22. The players will practice with their teams on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Players from the Super Bowl participants do not play in the Pro Bowl.

The coaching staffs will be from the losing teams in the AFC and NFC Divisional playoffs with the best regular season record. The 2014 Pro Bowl takes place on Sunday, Jan. 26, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, and will be televised by NBC.

The Pro Bowl changes were proposed by NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth. The new format and rules were designed to make the it the ultimate fan-friendly celebration of the game, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced.

"We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "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."

There will also be several rules changes to the Pro Bowl, beginning in 2014, the NFL announced:

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.

 

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