Thanks to a few big changes in format, the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl could prove more exciting than what fans have been treated to in the past. The annual event takes place this year on Sunday, Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, and it will be broadcasted on NBC beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
One huge change to the way the league has done things in the past is seen in the Pro Bowl roster, which is "Unconferenced" for the first time in history. What this means is that players were selected by fans, coaches and players without regard to which conference they played in.
Essentially, the "best" players at every position got in.
Here's a quick look at when and where you can catch the game, along with the full roster. Afterward, keep reading for a closer look at the new format and more.
When: Sunday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|QB||Tom Brady||New England Patriots|
|QB||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints|
|QB||Andrew Luck*||Indianapolis Colts|
|QB||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos|
|QB||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers|
|QB||Philip Rivers||San Diego Chargers|
|QB||Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks|
|QB||Nick Foles*||Philadelphia Eagles|
|WR||Antonio Brown||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|WR||Dez Bryant||Dallas Cowboys|
|WR||Larry Fitzgerald*||Arizona Cardinals|
|WR||Josh Gordon||Cleveland Browns|
|WR||A.J. Green||Cincinnati Bengals|
|WR||Andre Johnson||Houston Texans|
|WR||Calvin Johnson||Detroit Lions|
|WR||Brandon Marshall||Chicago Bears|
|WR||Demaryius Thomas||Denver Broncos|
|WR||DeSean Jackson*||Philadelphia Eagles|
|WR||Alshon Jeffery*||Chicago Bears|
|OT||Branden Albert||Kansas City Chiefs|
|OT||Jason Peters||Philadelphia Eagles|
|OT||Tyron Smith||Dallas Cowboys|
|OT||Joe Staley||San Francisco 49ers|
|OT||Joe Thomas||Cleveland Browns|
|OT||Trent Williams||Washington Redskins|
|OT||Duane Brown*||Houston Texans|
|OG||Jahri Evans||New Orleans Saints|
|OG||Ben Grubbs||New Orleans Saints|
|OG||Mike Iupati||San Francisco 49ers|
|OG||Logan Mankins||New England Patriots|
|OG||Louis Vasquez||Denver Broncos|
|OG||Marshal Yanda||Baltimore Ravens|
|OG||Evan Mathis*||Philadelphia Eagles|
|C||Ryan Kalil||Carolina Panthers|
|C||Alex Mack||Cleveland Browns|
|C||Nick Mangold*||New York Jets|
|C||Mike Pouncey||Miami Dolphins|
|C||Max Unger||Seattle Seahawks|
|TE||Jordan Cameron||Cleveland Browns|
|TE||Vernon Davis||San Francisco 49ers|
|TE||Jimmy Graham||New Orleans Saints|
|TE||Julius Thomas||Denver Broncos|
|TE||Jason Witten*||Dallas Cowboys|
|RB||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs|
|RB||Matt Forte||Chicago Bears|
|RB||Frank Gore||San Francisco 49ers|
|RB||Marshawn Lynch||Seattle Seahawks|
|RB||LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles|
|RB||Adrian Peterson||Minnesota Vikings|
|RB||Eddie Lacy*||Green Bay Packers|
|FB||Marcel Reece||Oakland Raiders|
|FB||Mike Tolbert||Carolina Panthers|
|DE||Greg Hardy||Carolina Panthers|
|DE||Cameron Jordan||New Orleans Saints|
|DE||Robert Quinn||St. Louis Rams|
|DE||Cameron Wake||Miami Dolphins|
|DE||J.J. Watt||Houston Texans|
|DE||Mario Williams||Buffalo Bills|
|DT||Jason Hatcher*||Dallas Cowboys|
|DT||Gerald McCoy||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|DT||Haloti Ngata||Baltimore Ravens|
|DT||Dontari Poe||Kansas City Chiefs|
|DT||Justin Smith||San Francisco 49ers|
|DT||Ndamukong Suh||Detroit Lions|
|DT||Kyle Williams||Buffalo Bills|
|OLB||John Abraham||Arizona Cardinals|
|OLB||Ahmad Brooks||San Francisco 49ers|
|OLB||Tamba Hali||Kansas City Chiefs|
|OLB||Justin Houston||Kansas City Chiefs|
|OLB||Robert Mathis||Indianapolis Colts|
|OLB||Terrell Suggs||Baltimore Ravens|
|MLB||NaVorro Bowman||San Francisco 49ers|
|MLB||Vontaze Burfict||Cincinnati Bengals|
|MLB||Luke Kuechly||Carolina Panthers|
|MLB||Patrick Willis||San Francisco 49ers|
|CB||Brandon Flowers||Kansas City Chiefs|
|CB||Brent Grimes||Miami Dolphins|
|CB||Joe Haden||Cleveland Browns|
|CB||Patrick Peterson||Arizona Cardinals|
|CB||Darrelle Revis||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|CB||Richard Sherman||Seattle Seahawks|
|CB||Aqib Talib||New England Patriots|
|CB||Alterraun Verner||Tennessee Titans|
|FS||Jairus Byrd||Buffalo Bills|
|FS||Earl Thomas||Seattle Seahawks|
|FS||Eric Weddle||San Diego Chargers|
|SS||Eric Berry||Kansas City Chiefs|
|SS||Kam Chancellor||Seattle Seahawks|
|SS||Troy Polamalu||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|P||Brandon Fields||Miami Dolphins|
|P||Johnny Hekker||St. Louis Rams|
|K||Stephen Gostkowski*||New England Patriots|
|K||Matt Prater||Denver Broncos|
|K||Justin Tucker||Baltimore Ravens|
|PR||Cordarrelle Patterson||Minnesota Vikings|
|PR||Dexter McCluster||Kansas City Chiefs|
|ST||Justin Bethel||Arizona Cardinals|
|ST||Matthew Slater||New England Patriots|
|LS||J.J. Jansen||Carolina Panthers|
|LS||Matt Overton||Indianapolis Colts|
After the 2013 debacle that caused the NFL to seriously consider dumping the Pro Bowl altogether, the league devised a different plan to attract interest.
We're going to have a draft, people.
No more AFC vs. NFC and, hopefully, no more apathy.
Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice—former teammates on the San Francisco 49ers and a couple of the league's all-time greatest players—will act as team captains and make alternating selections. Both teams will end up with 43 players, as Andrew Siciliano of NFL.com notes:
Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice alumni captains. 43 players per roster. Pro Bowl January 26 in Honolulu— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) July 31, 2013
The draft will kick off on Tuesday Jan. 21. NFL.com provides the info on what to expect:
On Tuesday, alumni captains Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice get the party started on NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET, primarily by drafting offensive linemen. (One fullback, one punter and one special teamer per team are also selected.)
In total, 22 players will be selected on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the other 66 players will be selected.
We could see some teammates going up against one another, depending on where they end up in the draft, which would certainly make things interesting.
However, not everyone's on board with the notion. San Francisco's Patrick Willis doesn't fancy having to tackle Frank Gore, for instance, as Taylor Price of 49ers.com points out:
It wouldn't be an NFL game without a bit of controversy, though, right?
In addition to the "Unconferenced" rosters and draft, there are other changes worth noting, as relayed by USA Today Sports' Nate Davis:
— Every quarter will end with a two-minute warning and change of possession to promote more quick-strike drives (teams will not be allowed to sit on the ball since the clock will stop on any play that doesn't gain positive yardage inside two minutes).
— There will be no kickoffs; all quarter-opening possessions will start at the 25-yard line with the first determined by coin toss.
— Kick returners will be replaced by an extra defensive back on each 43-man roster.
— Cover 2 and press coverage will now be allowed; only man-to-man coverage was allowed in the past, goal-line situations notwithstanding.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hopes these changes will improve the overall quality of play and give fans more of what they expect to see, per Davis: "The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever. We think these changes will enhance the game for both fans and players."
Will it Matter?
While the new format sounds exciting, it's going to be interesting to see if the players treat this upcoming Pro Bowl any differently than in recent years.
Last year's game was so bad from an effort standpoint that ESPN's Trey Wingo predicted the entire thing would be squashed in a few more years with the same effort in the future:
Dear Players: future is in your hands. Play Pro Bowl like it's a game it will stay on the calendar. Mail it in like last few years..#done— trey wingo (@wingoz) January 27, 2013
Players just don't want to risk getting hurt in a game that doesn't mean anything, as B/R's Michael Schottey pointed out before last year's game:
Look, maybe once upon a time, long ago, when men were men and football was played with leather helmets, the Pro Bowl meant something. Nowadays? Nada, zilch, zip, zero. The game means nothing.
The selection process is a joke. Most of the players don't want to play (or even pretend to participate if they show up).
The league hopes it fixed its selection process by going to the "Unconferenced" look, but not all are convinced the system is fixed—Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports being one in that camp:
This Pro Bowl voting system needs a serious overhaul.— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 28, 2013
At least the league is attempting to solve the problem, but it remains to be seen if these "fixes" will actually do anything to make the game more watchable.
The draft sounds fun, but will the game be played at a high level of competition, or will the players continue to give half an effort? The way they answer this question will have a lot to do with how the Pro Bowl is viewed going forward.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78