The NFL Pro Bowl has been heavily criticized in recent years as the play on the field hasn't amounted to much more than a glorified game of two-hand touch. Not wanting to risk injury, players have seemingly gone through the motions with few playing at maximum effort and points a plenty. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning wants to change that this year as he reportedly plead with the players to play at full-speed.
Manning, who was selected to his 12th Pro Bowl this season, reportedly gave a speech to the other Pro Bowlers, imploring them to play hard in order to save the game from cancellation. This after reports that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is considering cancelling the game, but will make the decision based on the effort of the players on the field.
Last year's Pro Bowl was almost universally criticized as the AFC won 59-41 with little effort shown on either side. Goodell was one of the most critical people of the game, saying that was not the kind of football the league wants to produce for its fans. He reportedly considered cancelling the all-star contest this season, but decided to wait another year and review it again.
"We are going to either have to improve the quality of what we are doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes, or even consider eliminating the game if that is the kind of quality of game we are going to provide," Goodell said, via the San Francisco Chronicle.
One of the biggest issues with the Pro Bowl is players avoid playing at maximum speed in fear of injury. Up and coming stars or potential free agents don't want to risk a major injury in an all-star game which could severely reduce their future earnings. The NFL attempts to entice players to play hard by offering a bigger bonus for the winning team, however, that tactic hasn't seemed to work in the past. The winner's share is roughly $50,000 and double what the losers get, but an additional $25,000 isn't much which a player could potentially lose millions with an injury.
Even for players who've already earned a big contract, there is little incentive to risk an injury which could force them into a rehabilitation program during the offseason. With mini-camps and OTA workouts, players do not get much time off and what time they do get off, they don't want to spend rehabbing an injury they suffered during a meaningless game.
With both concerns in mind, many players chose not to participate at all and the ones who do often do not play at full speed. Manning is hoping that changes this season, but it will likely take more than a speech to make that happen.