Originally published on SBReport.net on Jan. 23, 2012
The Pro Bowl has long been a question of debate and heated up this past offseason when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the game due to a lack of effort from the players.
Goodell later backed down and decided to allow the game to go on the weekend before the Super Bowl, as it has the last three years. With the Pro Bowl scheduled to take place this Sunday, it's no surprise that the future of the all-star game once again came into question when NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson opened up to reporters on Tuesday.
"We’re excited to be back here in Hawaii to celebrate the accomplishments of NFL players and another terrific season of NFL football," Anderson said opening in his introduction during the press conference. "The NFL has a long history with this beautiful state that goes beyond football and expands some four decades."
While he admits that Pro Bowl week is more than just the game with a wide variety of events that include entertainment and events for the community, the game may not be able to continue to be played should the players continue to play with little effort on the field.
The NFL believes that it is necessary for the players to engage in the same kind of effort that a fan can see on a Sunday during the regular season.
"Our expectations and our hope that our players will give the same effort and energy that allowed them to become roster eligible for this Pro Bowl," Anderson said. "We had serious discussions with the Players Association about the equivalence of upping the quality of play in this game.
"We have been very clear that the NFL quality has to be NFL quality to the extent that it has to reflect well on the brand, and that’s important to our fans."
With about 12.5 million fans tuning into the game last year, pleasing the fans remains a priority for the NFL. It appears that if the players continue to give poor effort on the field than Goodell may very well lean towards ending the All-Star game. The 12.5 million fans watching last year was the most watched for any professional all-star game.
Chicago Bears cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman says he hasn't spoken with any of his fellow Pro Bowl representatives but believes the NFL's message regarding the play has been clear.
"Considering that the game was suspended by Commissioner Goodell and he lifted that suspension and allowed us to play this game, I think the message is clear: the play has to be better than it was last year," Tillman said. "For those guys playing Sunday, I think the message is very clear and we have to play better"
Though players never want to get hurt during an all-star game that only counts for a $50,000 bonus and not towards a tally in the win-loss record, Tillman believes that it is the players' duty to help please the fans with strong effort on the field at Aloha Stadium.
"There’s a balance, like at any all-star game. Nobody wants to get hurt at any all-star game. You’ve got to find a balance. I feel like the responsibility of a player is you owe it to your fans."
One place that the Pro Bowl lacks NFL-caliber play is on the offensive and defensive lines where it seems as if the lineman are making actions closer to dancing than blocking.
It appears that the play given by the players on Sunday will likely hold a great deal of weight in the NFL Front Office's decision on the future of the Pro Bowl. Anderson believes that the fate of the Pro Bowl will be decided before they 2013-2014 NFL schedule is released in April.
"We have been engaged in some discussions with authority and we will continue to do that and the hope is to have something firm in advance of our 2013 schedule," Anderson said.