The 2014 Pro Bowl came down to a two-point conversion run by Mike Tolbert in the waning minutes which helped give Team Rice a 22-21 victory over Team Sanders at Aloha Stadium on Sunday night.
And after years of talking about how to improve the Pro Bowl once it became a glorified seven-on-seven practice where players’ effort was called into question, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was pleased with what he saw.
“I believe it was a very, very positive step, and I salute the players,” Goodell told ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike in the Morning on Monday. “I’m glad they had so much fun, and I think fans had a fun time watching it. I know I did.”
Goodell particularly recognized the efforts of NFL Players Association president Dominique Foxworth for his efforts to improve the Pro Bowl, especially, including the non-conferenced player draft structure to the NFL’s annual all-star game, which was in danger of being eliminated altogether.
“You have to admit, it was competitive,” Goodell said. “It was exciting, fun. I think the players played much harder. It was real football, and it was something. I give a lot of credit to the players.
“Dominique Foxworth worked with the players to come up with a concept that they would all get excited about, and this non-conference competition, particularly when you have to play against one of your own teammates, it added another element of interest to it.”
In addition to the Pro Bowl and what contingency plans the NFL has should inclement weather hit the metro New York City area ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, Goodell addressed the Heads Up Football Program that USA Football has championed over the last year in an effort to make the game safer.
Through the Heads Up Program, coaches learn the proper tackling techniques, as well as how to identify concussion symptoms from players.
“It’s a terrific program because it’s teaching kids the right fundamentals right from the beginning stages of their careers,” Goodell said. “I started playing football in the fourth grade, and if you learn those fundamentals right out of the box, they’re going to stay with you throughout your career, whether you play through high school, you play through college or through to the NFL.
“What we want is coaches to teach the right techniques, understand the right techniques, invite the parents in and help them understand what to look for and how to help their child progress through football and play game better, smarter and safer.”
THE FIGHT WITHIN
Two years ago, Peyton Manning’s career was in jeopardy after the veteran signal-caller endured four neck surgeries in an 18-month period. However, the Broncos took a chance on the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft when he was released by the Indianapolis Colts prior to the 2012 season.
After the Broncos suffered a Divisional Round loss to the Baltimore Ravens at home in last year’s playoffs, Manning rebounded by throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, both NFL single-season records and guiding Denver back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1997.
Following the season, Manning plans to continue his playing career.
“I still enjoy playing football,” Manning said after the Broncos arrived in New York for Super Bowl XLVIII. “I feel better than I thought I would at this point coming off that surgery, and I still enjoy the preparation part of it, the work part of it.
“Everybody enjoys the games. Everybody’s going to be excited to play in the Super Bowl, but I think when you still enjoy the preparation and the work part of it, you probably still ought to be doing that. As soon as I stop enjoying it, if I can’t produce, if I can’t help a team, that’s when I’ll stop playing. I certainly want to keep playing.”