The Pro Bowl is dead. Long live the Pro Bowl. The NFL and the NFLPA announced some big changes to everyone's favorite football game for 2014. Gone is the old NFC vs. AFC format. It's being replaced by a Pro Bowl Draft, similar to what you're used to doing with fantasy teams.
Only these fantasy teams will be captained by Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.
Of course, this is the Pro Bowl we're talking about, an institution with long tradition of slighting the St. Louis Rams. So maybe, just maybe, someone wearing the Horns will make it this year.
Fans still get to vote in players. It's just that the conference designation is gone. With the group of players identified, the two rosters will be filled out via draft ... a prime time event broadcast exclusively on the NFL Network on Jan. 22, 2014.
The coaching staffs will be the losing teams from the AFC & NFC divisional playoffs with the best regular season record. The game itself will happen Jan. 26 in Hawaii, a week before the Super Bowl.
In addition to the selection process, a number of other changes will be included this time around. The list:
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.
The kickoff rule, er, no kickoffs rather, is something to pay attention to. Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged last December that eliminating kickoffs all together is being considered as a measure of player safety. Now, the Pro Bowl will be a trial balloon for that idea.
And before you laugh off the Pro Bowl entirely, remember, it gets better television ratings than almost any other professional sport in the U.S., including the World Series.
If only there were a Rams player or two in there, a few more people around these parts might watch it too.