Pro Bowl 2014: Highlighting Intriguing Aspects of Unconferenced Game

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2014

January 22, 2014; Ko'Olina, HI, USA; Team Sanders alumni captain Deion Sanders (second from right) and Team Rice alumni captain Jerry Rice (far right) joke during the Pro Bowl draft at J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In hopes of rejuvenating an increasingly dull contest, the NFL did away conference alignment for the 2014 Pro Bowl.

A fantasy draft, headed by NFL legends Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, replaced the conference alignment. 

It remains to be seen if this will improve the product of the game, but at the very least, all of this gives fans new aspects to watch for. 


Teammate vs. Teammate 

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

If teammates were going against each other in another sport, it wouldn't be all that interesting. Bashing opponents is not part of the game as it is in football. I mean, the NHL has been doing a draft for their all-star game, but brutal contact isn't nearly as necessary in hockey as it is in football.

You don't have to blast someone into the boards in hockey. In football, however, Cam Newton isn't going to go down unless attempting tacklers use a fair amount of force.

Speaking of Newton, teammate Luke Kuechly, as Bryan Strickland of passed along, is happy he doesn't have to worry about bringing his dual-threat teammate to the turf: "It's a relief. I don't want to see him in the open field. What do I do? Do I try to hit him?"

Needless to say, I don't think Kuechly's bosses in Carolina would be overjoyed if Kuechly gave Newton a concussion, or even worse, went low to avoid the head contact and Newton blew out his knee. 

Of course, let's say Kuechly secretly couldn't stand Newton and thought the quarterback was overrated. Would Kuechly or another player in that position try to blow the other one up?

Let's say Robert Griffin III was in this game and that the Redskins' defense had players who could tackle and were opposing Griffin. After a season where there were ample reports suggesting that Griffin wasn't the most liked Redskins player in the locker room, wouldn't it be great to see how teammates treated him in this setting? 

Although Kuechly won't be trying to bring down Newton, he will be opposing teammates Mike Tolbert (fullback) and Jordan Gross (tackle). 

The matchup with the most potential to provide a huge hit or obvious lack thereof is Josh Gordon and T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns. Ward will be back roaming the defensive backfield while performing his saftey duties as Gordon is trying bust off big plays as a receiver. 

Will Houston and Johnson sit on Charles like this?
Will Houston and Johnson sit on Charles like this?Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Another teammate vs. teammate matchup worth keeping an eye on is Jamaal Charles, captain of Team Sanders, going against fellow Kansas City Chiefs, linebackers Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson. 


Will the Snubbed Play Scorned?   

TAMPA, FL -  DECEMBER 8:  Defensive end Mario Williams #94 of the Buffalo Bills sets on defense against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers December 8, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs won 27 - 6. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Unless Mario Williams has been taking ballet classes, I doubt he's been picked last for anything involving athletics in his life, let alone a football game. 

Williams wasn't picked last among all the players, that belonged to quarterback Alex Smith, but he was the last defensive lineman on the board. 

I highly doubt any player at the Pro Bowl feels they deserve to be the last player off the board at their position. It also feels safe to assume that any player who did go off the board last at their position has had at least one thought about making a play that proves it was foolish to overlook them. 

There has been a cooling off period for these guys since the draft, and they have been cooling off in the tropical paradise of Hawaii. So there is a chance that any hard feelings have long disappeared. 

The fun thing about this is that it shouldn't be hard to tell if players are out there trying to prove they were drafted too low. They will be the players playing like the Pro Bowl is a game that counted. 


Deion vs. Jerry

ERIC GAY/Associated Press

In the end, there may just be two men who had their competitive juices pumped up from this format, and that is the two men who selected the team. 

The two Hall of Famers became arguably the greatest ever to play their position because of immense physical gifts and an insane competitive drive. 

The two have been playful with their rivalry against each other and facing off in this game, but these guys also don't know how to compete in any way but to win. 

If for nothing else, winning this game would mean they wouldn't have to listen to the other one boast about it for all of eternity. 

Perhaps this will motivate the players. I mean, I wouldn't want to be a receiver on Team Rice, lollygag a route, return to the sidelines and have Rice come up to me and say, "You call that a route?"