Every year, a handful of stars develop "Pro Bowl Fever" and give up their roster spots.
The Pro Bowl is a joke, and instead of faking injuries to get out of parading around for the cameras, players should take a stand.
This year, a trio of New England Patriots made the decision to forgo the event, fresh off a bitter loss to the Baltimore Ravens, via the Boston Herald's Jeff Phowe:
Welker, Mankins and Wilfork have officially backed out of the Pro Bowl.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) January 21, 2013
We all know Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork and Wes Welker are still smarting from a disappointing loss, and the last thing they want to do is put on a fake smile for the fans.
It would be refreshing to hear a player actually call out the higher-ups to the fact that the game is not worth playing. Fans know it, players know it and it seems like Roger Goodell is beginning to see the truth of it as well.
Goodell appeared on SiriusXM NFL Radio's Town Hall back in October and said (via the Associated Press):
If we cannot accomplish that kind of standard (of high play), I am inclined to not play it. It is really tough to force competition, and after a long season, to ask those guys to go out and play at the same level they played is really tough.
The players that do show up to play the game might as well be playing flag football.
Unless, of course, Cam Newton is the one behind center.
Newton was roughed up a bit in the 2012 Pro Bowl after he allegedly refused to sign an autograph for another player's son and even went as far as to diss Ray Lewis (h/t CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco).
For the most part, though, what we see at the Pro Bowl isn't NFL football. Rather, it's a bunch of players posing for the cameras while getting paid some extra money to do it.
Players won't risk injury for a meaningless game, and they shouldn't. Furthermore, in this age of media saturation, many players likely want to have some time away from public scrutiny to just be themselves.
But this notion that every player that withdraws is dealing with an injury is just disingenuous. Players shouldn't be afraid to come out and say, "I just don't want to play in a meaningless game," or, "I want to have some quiet time with my family away from the bright lights of media."
Perhaps flag football might actually be more appealing to the players and fans. Perhaps the league could bring back the old skill competitions that featured the 40-yard dash, bench-press competition, quarterback-skills competition and the like.
God knows I never missed one of those broadcasts.
But if I'm honest, I'd rather watch golf than sit through another Pro Bowl game. And many of the players feel the same way about playing in a game that has become nothing more than a yearly joke.
It's time for the NFL to have an honest conversation with its players about the Pro Bowl, and it's time for players to stop faking injuries to get out of playing in the game.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78