NFL considering changes to Pro Bowl format, including replacing game with showcase of players

The Pro Bowl has undergone a number of changes in its roster format, location, time of year and even the events leading up to the game.

It's still not enough, because the game itself -- largely played at less than full speed -- is not enough. As such, the NFL is discussing ways to improve the Pro Bowl and its week of events, including possibly eliminating the traditional Sunday game and using the day to showcase the players in it, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

A flag football game could be a possible alternative solution, among others, per Rapoport.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking at Tuesday's Spring League Meeting, conveyed that in discussions with the NFL Players Association and league players they discussed "what works and doesn't work" with the Pro Bowl.

"I think the conclusion was that the game itself, doesn't work," Goodell said. "And that we needed to find a different way to celebrate our players. Celebrate the fact that, these being our Pro Bowler players, the best players in our league, and give them an opportunity to celebrate that with our fans. We talked an awful lot about some of the events around the Pro Bowl are really extremely popular, whether it's the quarterback challenge or some of the other events, so those are things that we'll probably build on."

The COVID-19 pandemic's effect on the Pro Bowl gave us a taste of what could be the future of the league's all-star showcase. Instead of holding the annual pre-Super Bowl game filled with NFL stars chosen by fans and their peers, the league held a number of events, including virtual Verzuz battles between players using their highlights in a format that was wildly popular with mostly everyone forced to stay home.

Also included in that year's alternative festivities: a Madden NFL tournament between players and a handful of celebrities, all of whom using the Pro Bowl rosters to face off.

Perhaps that is what the future looks like for the Pro Bowl, an event that typically attracts as much attention for its skills challenge ahead of the game as it does for the actual game. Players might be more excited by a showcase of sorts that allows them to compete but doesn't require suiting up (and risking potential injury).

If it involves a Madden tournament, I'm officially volunteering my participation. I want all the smoke.

Regardless, it's clear the current Pro Bowl format isn't satisfying the league. In this era of significant sporting change (looking at you, baseball), the NFL likely won't hesitate to implement improvements once they've identified them.

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