For the first time since 1971, the NFL's Pro Bowl will not feature a matchup between the best of the NFC and AFC.
Former Ravens defensive back Domonique Foxworth, who's now the president of the NFLPA, initiated the changes for the league's all-star game. The players available for the game will still be voted on by players, coaches and fans alike.
The top two players in votes will serve as captains, who will then pick teams, much like in a game of backyard basketball or fantasy football. The two players will each be joined by a fantasy football champion from NFL.com, who will help the NFL captains pick teams.
"As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment," Foxworth said in a joint statement issued by the NFL and NFLPA. "To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas."
In the same statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was receptive to the ideas Foxworth put forward.
"The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever," Goodell said. "We think these changes will enhance the game for both fans and players."
- 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– 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 was an incomplete pass. This rule eliminates the ability of a team in the lead near the end of the game to easily "take a knee" to secure their win.
- 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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