The league announced Wednesday that it will "reimagine" the event, still holding a voting process to recognize the best players but not having them take the field for the annual showcase:
"The NFL will continue to recognize the players' outstanding seasons and welcome fans to demonstrate their passion for their favorite players when voting for the 2021 Pro Bowl Roster begins on November 17th. The full Pro Bowl rosters will be revealed in December, where the players are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group's vote counts as one-third toward determining the 88 All-Star players who are selected to the Pro Bowl roster.
"Additionally, the league will work closely with the NFLPA and other partners, to create a variety of engaging activities to replace the Pro Bowl game this season. This virtual recognition of the season's finest players will provide fans the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of their favorite stars."
This isn't a permanent change, as the NFL confirmed the 2022 Pro Bowl will take place at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. For now, the lack of a Pro Bowl may not be mourned too much.
Eric Fisher @EricFisherSBG
Even beyond the pandemic, though, this further illuminates the issues the NFL has had with the Pro Bowl. The NFL is the biggest US pro league out there, but its All-Star Game is not competitively engaging in same way as other leagues' comparable events, w lots of reasons for that
The NFL isn't the only league that struggles to generate interest in its All-Star Game.
MLB allowed the winning league to have home-field advantage in the World Series as a way to raise the stakes, but the experiment was a bit of a bust. The NBA added a player draft before adopting a completely new scoring format for the 2020 edition. The latter did help make the fourth quarter entertaining; whether the novelty lasts remains to be seen.
The timing of the Pro Bowl does the event few favors.
It's wedged between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, so the focus is naturally on what's happening in the playoffs. In addition, a number of Pro Bowlers bow out because they're understandably not too keen on playing one more game—even an exhibition—on top of a long, arduous season.
For a significant number of viewers, Pro Bowl weekend peaks with the Skills Showdown.
Honoring Pro Bowlers is necessary because it can provide context for a player's career. Many players also have contract bonuses at stake.
Absence generally makes the heart grow fonder. That probably won't happen this January when fans are unable to catch the Pro Bowl.