Pro Bowl Games swap out tackling for flags, however a success amongst gamers

LAS VEGAS — This was one thing completely new.

The Pro Bowl has moved lately from Hawaii to Orlando to Nevada, however the greatest shift got here Sunday, because the NFL tried a brand new flag soccer format as a part of its rebranded “Pro Bowl Games” festivities at Allegiant Stadium.

The nonchalant nature of what counted as sort out soccer lately and a need to reduce the danger of damage resulted in flag soccer, however the outcome was well-received by gamers concerned. This was a bit of little bit of a circus, however then once more, so is Vegas, proper?

“You’ve got the best of the best out here, and it’s fun to see guys get competitive,” mentioned Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, who thrived within the new format, going 14-for-16 for 239 yards and 5 touchdowns within the first and better of three 20-minute video games — a 33-27 win for the NFC on a landing from Smith to Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb with 12 seconds left.

The recreation had movie star coaches in brothers Eli and Peyton Manning, a random contact of Vegas with the Blue Man Group wandering round between video games, and Hollywood visitors on the sidelines in Snoop Dogg and former “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson, who mentioned the final NFL recreation he attended was one of many Patriots’ Super Bowl wins.

“So Snoop Dogg called me a week and a half ago and he said ‘Hey, nephew, would you like to coach the NFL Pro Bowl with me?'” mentioned Davidson, sporting a New York Giants T-shirt. “I thought that was code for, like, let’s go smoke or something, and here I am. This was amazing. I had the time of my life.”

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There was one other Snoop in attendance — Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley, an unlikely Pro Bowl option to say the least as he totaled two landing passes all 12 months however was known as in with Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa all injured, Patrick Mahomes busy getting ready for a Super Bowl and Joe Burrow additionally not taking part.

Huntley performed nicely, going 15-for-19 for 192 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions — within the different two video games, three AFC quarterbacks mixed for 187 yards and 4 scores with three picks. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw three touchdowns within the closing recreation to safe an NFC (and coach Eli) victory over the AFC.

“My favorite part was that we didn’t have to put on shoulder pads and helmets and tackle people,” mentioned Packers nook Jaire Alexander, who intercepted a Trevor Lawrence cross and returned it for a landing. “That was my first-ever pick-six. It’s going to go down as my first. Some of us have been out of our seasons two, three weeks and more, so we don’t want to come out here and tackle again. And then some people go hard, some people don’t go hard. I don’t mind tackling, but everybody’s not on board.”

The groups solely had one full observe, whereas a Thursday abilities competitors earned combined critiques from gamers. Raiders working again Josh Jacobs’ “this s— is stupid” comment went viral Saturday, however he had a greater appreciation for the occasion Sunday.

“I didn’t like all the other stuff, with a lot of sitting around at events the fans don’t get to see, but today was cool,” Jacobs mentioned. “I think it’s more competitive this way with flag — at least you get guys to try a little harder. I think it should stick.”

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The NFL had an advanced scoring system awarding factors for wins within the flag soccer video games, but in addition in different competitions, starting from a “Kick, Tac, Toe” contest with kicks and long-snaps at a large gameboard, and “gridiron gauntlet” competitions with linemen pushing sleds on impediment programs.

And whereas this was flag soccer, there was nonetheless a bit of little bit of physicality — on one landing play, Raiders receiver Davante Adams flipped the ball on the purpose line to Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill, who obtained in for the rating however not earlier than getting upended by Rams nook Jalen Ramsey, who inadvertently gave him a shoulder as he tried to drag Adams’ flag. Hill additionally obtained a cameo on protection and batted down a Cousins cross. 

In a light-weight preview of what subsequent week will convey with brothers Travis and Jason Kelce going through off with the Chiefs and Eagles in Super Bowl LVII, Sunday’s recreation noticed Cowboys nook Trevon Diggs intercept a trick-play cross thrown by his brother, Bills receiver Stefon Diggs.

Sunday was a quiet day for the offensive and defensive linemen, however even they’d occasions between the video games, and the dearth of full bodily contact was a welcome change for gamers in lots of circumstances weeks faraway from their final significant snaps.

“I thought it was really cool,” mentioned Buccaneers sort out Tristan Wirfs, thrilled to swap jerseys with 49ers sort out Trent Williams after the sport. “I couldn’t imagine blocking Dexter Lawrence today. I thought they did their best to make it fun for us, too, and give us something to do.”

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And whereas the hope is that the flag-football side will restrict the danger for damage, Browns pass-rusher Myles Garrett managed to dislocate his toe in the course of the recreation, although it wasn’t instantly clear how the damage occurred.

How’d the brand new format register with followers? A Twitter ballot had solely 23% saying they loved the brand new format, with 40% not having fun with it and one other 37% selecting “indifferent.” The recreation was a success with followers in Las Vegas, drawing an introduced crowd of 58,331, up barely from 56,206 final 12 months for conventional sort out soccer within the Pro Bowl’s first 12 months in Las Vegas.

The aggressive juices had been flowing among the many gamers, as these on the profitable group obtained $84,000 whereas the shedding members took house $42,000 apiece.

“This has been a blast, seeing all these fans and being able to play with some of the greatest in the league,” mentioned Vikings tight finish T.J. Hockenson, who matched the longest play of the day with a 45-yard landing. “It’s been incredible. We got after it a little bit, especially at the end when you’ve got some money on the line.”

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, protecting the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his tenth season protecting the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can comply with him on Twitter at @gregauman.  

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