NFL alums Tony Gonzalez, Peyton Manning, Bruce Matthews and the late Merlin Olsen each were named to the Pro Bowl an amazing 14 seasons. The only player with more Pro Bowl nominations is 45-year old Tom Brady, who has been selected for the game a record 15 times…and counting.

The Pro Bowl nominating process is not going to change this season but there is going to be one major overhaul to the game itself. The league announced yesterday that the event now will be a Flag Football game between the AFC & NFC squads starting this February 5, 2023 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. No more tackle football for the Pro Bowl!

Some cynics among you (and even a couple in our office) may state the Pro Bowl already has been touch football masked as real tackle football for the last several years. Many of us participated in the game over the years that primarily was played either in Hawaii (1980-2009) or earlier in Los Angeles (1951-72).  Although the quality of play was below average, the television ratings continued to be strong, especially compared to other programming. After all, the NFL shield has a strong following of fans regardless of the circumstances.

Many of us players had a natural letdown in playing the Pro Bowl after an arduous training camp, a long regular season and intense playoffs. However, the opportunity to bring our families to a warm venue in the middle of the winter did have its advantages. The Pro Bowl on-field play often would be uneven until…around the fourth quarter when we were more “focused” on that winner’s share so that we could pay the week-long hotel bill of our family and close friends.

The NFL yesterday announced that the event in Las Vegas this February now will be known as “The Pro Bowl Games.” There will be a week-long series of player skills competition that will culminate in the Flag game that Sunday, a week before the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl Flag game will air live on both ABC and ESPN.

Although there will be many new elements around the week, fan voting still will help determine the AFC & NFC rosters. Voting will start in the second half of the regular season.

Those of us who watched the Pro Bowl in recent years (and the game averaged a healthy 6.7 million viewers last February) knew that major changes had to be made. The Pro Bowl simply was not in line with the high quality standards that the NFL has developed for almost all other aspects of league operations.

Is Pro Bowl flag football the answer? Time will tell, but there has been an aggressive NFL push into flag football in recent years as the league continues to promote our sport to a younger generation.

Meanwhile, we are fortunate to have many more enjoyable weekends of 2022 NFL regular season and post season play between now and the initial Pro Bowl Games! Stay tuned!