The NFL is starting over with the Pro Bowl.
The NFL originally announced radical changes to the format of the All-Star game back in May, eliminating the traditional AFC vs. NFC matchup in favor of a fantasy draft-like roster selection.
Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni captains, choosing two rosters with the help of two NFL.com fantasy users.
The NFL and NFLPA distributed a joint press release, explaining that the changes are designed to make the Pro Bowl “the ultimate fan-friendly celebration of the game.”
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” said NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth, who proposed the changes to the game. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
Under the new format, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players.
Players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, which will air (tonight) on Wednesday, Jan. 22, on NFL Network.
The 2014 Pro Bowl will be held on Sunday, Jan. 26, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
- 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.
Check out the new NFL Pro Bowl page for much more detailed information about the NFL’s All-Star game!
This uniform unveiling has replaced the schedule announcement (you know, where everybody gets all breathlessly fired up even though they’ve known for months who their team’s opponents would be) as the most overhyped offseason non-event. On the day between the NCAA basketball championship and Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, the NFL has again found a way to dominate a news cycle. Got to give it credit.
Click on link to watch related video (ESPN deletes after a few days).
Dallas Cowboys: The key thing to remember is that the big changes aren’t necessarily in form, but in function. So the Cowboys’ new look is basically the same as their old look, but the jersey works differently. As Nike says, "the new Nike Elite 51 jersey is designed and engineered from the inside out, focusing on creating a system where the base layer, padding, jersey and pant work in concert. A few of the new innovations include increasing sleeve articulation for better range of motion and integrating new four-way stretch fabrication to provide a streamlined shrink-wrap fit."
New York Giants: As you would expect, the Giants are making no major changes in the appearance of their uniforms. The teams in our division are traditionalists, by and large, and none more so than the current Super Bowl champs. Many do like the gloves, that produce the team logos when you interlock them.
Philadelphia Eagles: No changes at all for the Eagles, not even in the fabric. "The Philadelphia Eagles have chosen to stay with their traditional design aesthetic as well as their former uniform fabrication this year." Man, when they were talking about sticking with last year’s plan and giving it another chance, they weren’t kidding!
Washington Redskins: Like the Cowboys and Eagles, the Redskins are embracing the new Nike technology while maintaining their old look. So Robert Griffin III will wear the Redskins uniform with which he’s already familiar, just with something called "Flywire technology," which is designed "to reduce weight and provide a lockdown fit over the pads." Which should help the young man when he gets hit harder than he’s ever been hit in his life.
Today, the NFL and Nike rolled out new uniforms for all 32 teams at a gala celebration in Brooklyn, N.Y.
NFL Network’s Michelle Beisner was on hand as stars from around the league modeled the new duds, kept (mostly) under lock and key in the weeks leading up Tuesday’s launch.
For those concerned about drastic changes, fear not. Beisner confirmed the majority of uniforms received tweaks to fabric and composition. Nike managed to have a little fun with the Seahawks, who received the most drastic makeover.
Count Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who wore Nike at Virginia Tech, among those in favor of the new look.
"It’s awesome. It’s a great opportunity for Nike and it’s a great opportunity for the NFL," Vick told NFL Network. "We’ll feel good and we’ll play good, and I’m very excited for the Nike brand."
Much more to come as we gather photos and video of the Nike launch.
Many fans are taking it as a given — some with dread, some with glee — that Nike will give the NFL a wholesale makeover when it takes over the league’s uniform contract in 2012.
Speculations on what a Nike-fied NFL might look like, cooked up by some enterprising Photoshoppers, have been circulating for nearly a year now. Although the league and Nike confirmed that those designs are not legit, they still represent some people’s worst fears (or fondest dreams, depending on whether you’re an old-school or new-school kind of fan).
All this fretting and fantasizing is largely moot, because the NFL is likely to look pretty much the same as it does now. Here’s why:
• It’s a long way from the NCAA to the NFL. People’s perceptions of Nike are driven primarily by the company’s college football uniform designs. But the NFL is very different from the NCAA. For one thing, colleges are using newfangled uni designs as recruiting tools to attract 17-year-olds and to sell merchandise to 20-year-olds. But the NFL doesn’t need to recruit anyone and the league’s consumer base is, on the whole, older and less trend-driven than the NCAA’s. Also, many top colleges change their uniforms every season, while NFL teams aren’t even allowed to change their uniforms more than once every five years, so there’s a lot more design stability in the pro ranks.
• It’s the dog, not the tail: Nike (or any uniform company) can’t just walk in and change everything on a whim. Nike, like any vendor, can only do what its clients agree to. And in this case the clients are NFL team owners, a bunch of very conservative businessmen who have enormous investments in their successful brands and who, in many cases, have owned their respective franchises for generations. These are not the kinds of guys who are going to put their teams into the Nike design centrifuge. Can you really see the Rooneys letting Nike give the Steelers a major face-lift? Or the Maras? Or the Hunts? No way.
• Historical precedent. It’s easy to forget this now, but Nike outfitted many NFL teams back in the 1990s, and the world kept right on spinning. Now, it’s true that Nike came up with the Broncos’ current look, which was revolutionary when it was introduced in 1997. But think about it: Nearly 15 years later, not a single other NFL team looks anything remotely like the Broncos, which just proves the point that most NFL franchises prefer to stick with tradition. Will a few teams come out with wacky designs next year? Yeah, probably. But there’s nothing new about that. Most teams will still stick with what they’ve got.
• Hints have already leaked. Jaguars equipment manager Drew Hampton recently posted a series of tweets about the Jags’ 2012 uniforms. The gist: No design changes, just a few tweaks in the tailoring. That’s gonna be the story for most NFL teams.
• Potential new rules are a shot across the bow. Word came out over the summer that the NFL was considering new rules limiting alternate jerseys to non-prime games prior to Week 10, because the proliferation of alternate looks could "potentially compromise a club’s national brand equity." Does that sound like a league that’s planning to go bonkers with crazy uniform designs to you? If anything, it’s a preemptive move to ensure that Nike will have little effect on the league’s look.
Add it all up and you have a league that you’ll have no trouble recognizing as the NFL. A few teams will no doubt go for a face-lift, and we’ll hear the usual claims about space-age fabrics that are lighter, faster and so on. But a large-scale redesign? Ain’t gonna happen.
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