The Pro Bowl will be revamped beginning next year, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced today.
Instead of the AFC facing the NFC, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by their peers, fans and coaches.
Players will then be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, in which two leading vote getters will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions to pick players. Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni team captains, assisting the Pro Bowl team captains and fantasy football champions in the draft process.
Browns left tackle Joe Thomas has become a fixture at the Pro Bowl. He has been selected to the all-star game in each of his first six NFL seasons.
The Pro Bowl player draft will air Jan. 22 on NFL Network. The Pro Bowl will be held Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu and will be televised by NBC.
The following changes to the Pro Bowl were also announced today:
*Game within the game – A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
*No kickoffs – The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
*Rosters – The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
*Cover two and press coverage – The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage. In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
*Stopping of the game clock – Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
*Game timing – The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
*Play clock – A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
*Sacks – The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.