NEW YORK – The National Football League is calling an audible on its Pro Bowl format and the familiar NFC vs. AFC matchup is a thing of the past. Players will be assigned to teams through a Pro Bowl Draft. The league’s top two vote getters will be captains, joined by a pair of NFL.com fantasy football champions and NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.
The teams will still be made of 43 players but without regard to conference, the top vote getters at every position will have an equal shot of landing on either team. If last year’s game was played under this format, it’s conceivable the five Kansas City Chiefs selected wouldn’t be on the same team and would have to battle each other.
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect the fans in a different environment,” NFL Player’s Association President Dominique Foxworth said in a press release.
Rules changes will also be a focal point under this new format. The ball will change hands at the end of every quarter and a two-minute warning has been added to both the first and third quarters. This is intended to create a sense of urgency for the team holding the ball at the end of each quarter.
Kick-offs have been eliminated, the ball will be placed at the 25-yard line after each change of possession. The play clock will be shaved by five seconds from 40 to 35 and the game clock will start on a referee’s signal after incomplete passes.
The Pro Bowl draft will be held on January 22. The coaching staffs will be comprised from teams that lose in the Divisional round of the playoffs that had the best regular season records.