|Rodgers' admits he's still embarrassed by the NFC's effort in January's Pro Bowl. (Getty Images)|
After the conference championship games but before the Super Bowl, the NFL staged the annual Pro Bowl, which has devolved into the ultimate pick-up game of two-hand touch. Players, understandably, aren't going full bore, presumably because there's nothing at stake and risking injury in an meaningless all-star game would be silly.
But it wasn't always like that. Plus, these are professional athletes; they didn't reach their station in life by not being competitive. And it's why Packers quarterback and NFC Pro Bowler Aaron Rodgers sounded off days following the spectacle. During an appearance on ESPN Milwaukee, Rodgers said at the time that the NFC players "embarrassed themselves" (not that you would remember, but the AFC won 59-41), adding “I feel like there should be some pride involved in a game like that, and I was just surprised by some of the efforts of some of the guys."
Some four months later and Rodgers' sentiments haven't changed.
"After the Pro Bowl experience, the things that happened at the hotel, during the week and then in the game, I just thought was so disappointing," he told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "Not only myself, the coaching staff that we brought, but to the fans. I mean, I'm sitting there, I bought six tickets as well so I have six people in the stands watching me in the game and I felt I was embarrassed for them so I just felt like it was the right time to say something like that.”
This is basically what Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in February, days after the Pro Bowl, while he prepared his team to face the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
"What I'm going to say probably shouldn't be what I should say to that question so I'm going to let it go," Belichick said as he fought back a smile. "What it was and what it is now … it's a lot different," he added before leaving the podium.
Incidentally, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell felt similarly. That same month he said "I really didn't think that was the kind of football that we want to be demonstrating for our fans. And you heard it from the fans. The fans were actively booing in the stands. They didn't like what they were seeing. …
"We're either going to have to improve the quality of what we're doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes or even considering eliminating the game if that's the kind of quality game we're going to provide," Goodell continued. "I know players love to be in Hawaii but we have to start with the quality of what we're doing. If the fans are responding negatively to what we're doing, we better listen. And that was my message."
Goodell's message, which paralleled Rodgers' and Belichick's, didn't sit well with Jets linebacker Bart Scott. When the discussion of ending the Pro Bowl gained traction in recent weeks, Scott responded thusly: "What is [Goodell] talking about? Tell him to get out there and put a jersey on."
You know, like Rodgers. Who also thinks last year's game was a circus.
Here's the bottom line: whomever's delivering the news, it's still the same: the Pro Bowl has become a joke. And it's not unreasonable to suggest fixing it or scrapping it altogether. You don't need to put on a jersey to come to that conclusion.
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