NFL players know this is the place to be
The NFC locker room was filled with high fives and nice jobs and good to see you agains.
In one corner, you had old man Jeff Garcia talking about being the elder statesman of yesterday's Pro Bowl won by the NFC, 42-30. In another, NFL rookie of the year and Pro Bowl MVP Adrian Peterson couldn't answer questions quickly enough before another one came his way.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo exited the field as if Jessica Simpson were waiting impatiently for him in the car to go back to Big D. But he still had time for a comment or two about how much fun this game is and how great it is to come back to Aloha Stadium, a place he's grown fond of this century.
Even Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens, who heard some catcalls after dropping a couple of passes early on, was feeling good enough about his two-touchdown performance to answer any and all questions about his week-long stay in Hawaii.
"And if anybody asks me, I hope this game stays right here because this is where we want to come," Owens said, responding to comments NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made about taking the game elsewhere. "The fans love and respect us here. You want to do well for them."
Had Peterson not been the first running back in 13 years to rush for more than 100 yards in a Pro Bowl and score the game-clinching touchdown late, the MVP award could have easily gone to Owens, who caught eight passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Not that he was complaining. He was happy for Peterson, the rookie running back for Minnesota, who's barely a year removed from his final college game, a Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State. Now, he's posing in front of his new Cadillac as the game's MVP, culminating a great first season.
"This is what it's all about, coming out here to perform with the best in the game," Peterson said. "I said earlier in the week I wanted to come out and make a statement. It's a good feeling."
The AFC locker room wasn't as boisterous, but was still filled with a camaraderie of knowing you were among the best. Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning made his eighth Pro Bowl appearance, playing a strong first quarter before giving way to Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh and Cleveland's Derek Anderson.
Manning completed 11 of 16 for 147 yards and one touchdown. He said in the locker room that it's important to show up for this all-star game because of the fans, coaches and players.
"I've always loved coming here and competing with the game's best," Manning said. "It's an honor to be selected, and if you can, you want to play in it if you're healthy. It was a good week, a great way to finish the season."
That sentiment was shared by nearly everyone in both locker rooms. As hard as it is to play in a game like this after most of the combatants haven't competed in a month or more, it's still an honor to be selected and try for the $40,000 first prize.
"This is where you want to end your season," Romo said. "You know you've done well if you get to play football in Hawaii."
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org