PRO BOWL 2008 & BEYOND
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was the center of attention during Pro Bowl practice at Kapolei High School last week.
Future of game up in air
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will decide whether it comes back
The possibility of a players strike and rumors of cheating having affected a Super Bowl loom ominously for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who also has the future of the Pro Bowl on his mind.
So does players' union chief Gene Upshaw, who recently brought up the idea of not even staging the NFL all-star game at all. In the same pre-Super Bowl meeting with reporters, Upshaw also talked about the potential for a strike. Does that mean participation in the Pro Bowl becomes a bargaining chip?
Goodell has put forth the notion of playing the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl. Upshaw doesn't like that idea because it would prevent participation by players from the Super Bowl teams.
One of the few certainties in all of this is that the 2009 Pro Bowl will be played at Aloha Stadium. It will be the 30th consecutive one here, but could also be the last, since the state's contract with the NFL ends next year.
There have been some extension talks, but with all the uncertainty about what the league wants to do with the game, and what the union wants, such discussions are problematic at best -- too many variables.
Upshaw said recently that a survey of NFL players shows 80 percent of them want to keep the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. It was impossible to find any current Pro Bowl players who disagreed with that sentiment this week at the practices at Kapolei High School.
"I love Hawaii," Browns quarterback Derek Anderson said. "I don't know if I'd want to be in Detroit this time of year to play in the game."
Cowboys offensive tackle Flozell Adams has been chosen for four Pro Bowls.
"They're talking about moving it? To where? What, it costs too much for them? That's a bad idea I think," Adams said.
The 10-year veteran has been around long enough to realize that money factors in.
And Goodell knows that a Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl at the site of the big game would save on expenses. It might provide more revenue, too, since it would be played when attention is most focused on the NFL.
Veteran NFL reporter John Clayton of ESPN comes down on the side of the players.
"I think they should keep it here because the players want to be here. And the thought of moving it around, I don't know if it's necessarily going to change the (impact of the) game. I think they change it, then is it going to gain much more stature? I don't know if it can. It's just like the baseball all-star game. There's certainly some problems. There's never going to be great ratings. Still, if the players want to be here, it should be here," Clayton said.
"It's kind of anti-climactic, but it's a reward. So much is made of what goes on with the voting of the all-star game. If you play it before the Super Bowl, I don't think that's much of a benefit. You're going to eliminate nearly a quarter of the roster?"
"I love Hawaii. I don't know if I'd want to be in Detroit this time of year to play in the game."
Derek Anderson, Cleveland Browns quarterback, on the possibility of playing the Pro Bowl somewhere other than Hawaii
OF COURSE, not every player wants to play in a game after the season is over -- even if it means a trip to Hawaii. Goodell pointed out last week that 17 selected players opted out of this year's game. The number of legitimate ailments is always debatable, but there's also the risk of incurring a new injury by playing in the Pro Bowl. The fact that different players play the game at different levels of intensity can cause more injuries than in a normal game.
Last year, Saints quarterback Drew Brees injured his non-throwing shoulder. In the 1980s, Cardinals quarterback Neil Lomax suffered a Pro Bowl injury that hampered him the following season and may have shortened his time in the league.
In 1998, after his rookie season, Patriots running back Robert Edwards wrecked his career with a knee injury that didn't happen in the actual game: It was during a flag football game on the beach that was part of the Pro Bowl week activities.
AS FOR the state, it estimates $30 million each year in visitor spending generated by the Pro Bowl. Still, not everyone is enamored with investing $4 million per year from the Hawaii Tourism Authority for the right to host the game. Some feel more money should go to promoting other sports events.
The Pro Bowl's future appears to be at the mercy of political forces, within the NFL and the state. It remains to be seen how much the voices of the players and the football fans of Hawaii will be considered before decisions are made.
"I heard that they were talking about moving," Redskins offensive tackle Chris Samuels said.
"I don't think it'll be a good deal. It could work out, but I think the people over here embrace the Pro Bowl. They enjoy it. They look forward to it every year. Even though it's a long flight from the East Coast, I think this is where it should be."