Luck-led Team Carter vs. Romo-lead Team Irvin in Pro Bowl
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) After three days of light, make that very light, workouts, Team Irvin and Team Carter are ready for Sunday night's Pro Bowl.
Tony Romo will start at quarterback for Team Irvin, Andrew Luck for Team Carter in the second year of a format concocted to bring some life to an event that had become a show of halfhearted effort, little defense and practically no blocking.
The players returning from last season say the intensity was up.
''There were some big hits last year,'' Denver safety T.J. Ward said.
Not that it was anything close to a regular NFL game, and not even in the same stratosphere as what will be happening on the same field a week later when Seattle and New England meet in the Super Bowl.
The Pro Bowl comes at the end of a long, long season. Some played in 18 games. They are looking forward to the offseason, vacations with their families, and the last thing anybody wants to see is a significant injury.
''You've got to respect guys' careers,'' Carolina inside linebacker Luke Kuechly said. ''You can't go out there and try to smoke everyone. You've got to understand guys are here to have fun, but at the same time guys are competitive and that's going to come out. The bottom line is you've just got to respect each other.''
It's a format where teammates can go against each other. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford joked that he could make a deal with Lions safety Glover Quin that Quinn would allow Stafford to throw a touchdown, and Stafford would throw Quinn an interception.
There are those who miss the old AFC vs. NFC format, New York Jets center Nick Mangold chief among them.
''I think there was something about coming out here and saying `I'm from the AFC and this is my team,''' he said earlier in the week. ''Now that it's not, I'd be the first to say I'm not a fan of how they do it.''
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said reports that in games past players haven't given much of an effort were exaggerated.
''I think there were a few plays here and there where you might look at it and be like that was a lack of effort or just wasn't full speed,'' he said. ''So I think it got a bad rap just because of a few plays.
''But that's what stuck out in certain people's minds. The league was the one threatening to shut it down, which I think would be an absolute shame. This is a tradition. It's a way to reward players for hard-fought season.''
Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Cris Carter chose the teams in a draft carried on with much hoopla Wednesday night. Dallas' Jason Garrett and his staff will coach Team Irvin, Baltimore's John Harbaugh and his staff Team Carter.
The teams went through their final practice Saturday at Scottsdale Community College, doing a little work with position coaches, a few reps in their shorts of 11-on-11 and a lot of autograph signing and picture posing.
Last year, the team of Jerry Rice beat the one of Deion Sanders 22-21, a definite departure from the high-scoring Pro Bowls of the recent past.
The game is taking a one-year break from its usual site of Honolulu. And while there are a few wistful mentions of the beach, nobody was complaining at least publicly about the desert weather, with temperatures in the mid-70s on Saturday and high 70s forecast for 70. University of Phoenix Stadium, which is sold out for the event, has a retractable roof.
The Pro Bowl returns to Hawaii next season.
There will be some unusual rules in the game Sunday night. Most noticeable will be the PATs. The gap between goal posts will be narrowed from the standard 18.6 feet to 14 feet and the kick will be moved back to the 15-yard line, essentially making it a 25-yard kick. Team Irvin kicker Adam Vinatieri hasn't missed a PAT in five seasons. Team Carter's Cody Parkey didn't miss one in his rookie season.
There were the usual rash of withdrawals from the original team, including six quarterbacks. Injuries, major and minor, were usually given as the reason. That, and of course, players who have a much bigger game to play next Sunday.
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