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NFL Pro Bowl 2012: Sandlot Football Shows the Way Forward for All-Star Game

HONOLULU, HI - JANUARY 29:  Brandon Marshall #19 of the Miami Dolphins scores a touchdown during the second quarter of the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl against the NFC team at Aloha Stadium on January 29, 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images
Derek EstesCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2012

Mike McCarthy and the NFC squad for Sunday's Pro Bowl have the right idea.

Going into halftime, the defense tossed a couple laterals following an interception, David Akers made an onside kick, and punter Andy Lee completed an 8-yard pass to convert 4th-and-3 on a fake punt.

Every year, the Pro Bowl takes its lumps for being a low-speed, kid-gloves exhibition game. There's no way around that. There's nothing at stake but bragging rights, and no one wants to run full speed and risk an injury in a game that doesn't really matter.

So instead of presenting a pseudo-NFL game that's little more than a glorified pass-and-catch marathon, the NFL should take what NFC head coach Mike McCarthy displayed and kick it up a notch.

Stop downplaying the exhibition style of the game, and instead revel in it.

Let this game become the ultimate showcase of backyard football. Break out all those plays the talking heads say will never work in the NFL and have some fun with it.

Give us a little less Air Coryell and West Coast, and a little more Annexation of Puerto Rico. To paraphrase a cheesy Vin Diesel quote, stop thinking "NFL" and start thinking "Playstation."

How great would it be to see Joe Thomas taking a toss from Brandon Marshall on a hook-and-lateral, or see Cam Newton diving for a LeSean McCoy pass on a halfback pass?

For that matter, put players on opposite sides of the ball. Let Ray Lewis pound the rock up the middle for a change, or see how Darrelle Revis likes being the intended receiver. In fact, Antonio Brown nearly picked off an interception about five minutes after I wrote this down.

For those who would argue that the game would lose all competitiveness, they only need to check their neighborhood parks on Saturday mornings to see how much it means to win even when you're just having fun.

Bringing the game a less-professional feel would allow the players to really put the fun back into the game. Fans would see even more extra point attempts by Drew Brees, and there's no telling what Jared Allen would do.

That's a game I'd look forward to watching every year.

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