NFL creates Sportsmanship Award for players

FILE - In this July 26, 2007, file photo, Curtis Martin, the New York Jets all-time leading rusher, announces his retirement during a news conference in New York. The NFL has created a Sportsmanship Award that will be voted on by the players and presented
Louis Lanzano, File

NEW YORK (AP) The NFL has created a Sportsmanship Award that will be voted on by the players and presented to the winner on the eve of the Super Bowl.

The award will be part of the NFL Honors show in which The Associated Press presents its major league awards, including MVP and Coach of the Year.

A player ''who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition'' will earn the award, the NFL said Tuesday.

''While we enjoy the incredible performance of NFL players on the field, we must never forget a core value of football that transcends all levels of play and exemplifies the complete athlete: sportsmanship,'' NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said.

''This award will recognize those who never hesitate to show that excellence in football is not achieved without respect for the game, for their opponents, for the officials and for the fans.''

Each team will nominate one player. A panel of former players will select eight finalists, four from each conference, from the 32 nominees. Those finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot under the NFL Sportsmanship Award when the players vote on Dec. 19.

From the eight finalists, each team's players will submit a consensus vote of its choice for the winner. As in Pro Bowl voting, a team cannot vote for its own player.

The panel of former players will be comprised of Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, Warrick Dunn, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler.

The winner will be announced during the nationally televised NFL Honors show on Jan. 31 on NBC, and will receive a $25,000 donation to a charity of his choice.

In addition to the MVP and Coach of the Year awards, the AP presents during NFL Honors its awards for Comeback Player of the Year; Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year; Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year; and, for the first time this season, Assistant Coach of the Year.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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