With the Pro Bowl coming up this weekend it's hard not to think about the times when you went there as a player. The only difference now is the guys this year are in south Florida as opposed to Hawaii. We had some good times out in Honolulu the years we went.
You get to bring a lot of your family out there. I'd bring a couple of my brothers to Hawaii with me the times that I went to the Pro Bowl. The other nice part about it is you get to meet some of the players that you don't get a chance to spend a lot of time with, the guys that you always compete against, but never really talk to all that much.
It was always good to spend some extra time with Dan Marino and John Elway in the times I was out there. And of course I usually had some teammates out there with me like Bruce (Smith), Thurman (Thomas), Andre (Reed) and (Steve) Tasker. Heck most of those guys went to more of those Pro Bowls than I did.
In the actual Pro Bowl game there aren't any unwritten rules with respect to toning down the intensity of play. The competitive nature of the game is pretty evident. We've seen that in just the past couple of years alone let alone back when I played. That being said pass rushing defensive ends are pretty good about not burying you if they have a clean shot at the quarterback.
The biggest thing we always did was make the coaches understand that we were coming off of a 16-game schedule and a four game preseason. We did not want to get run into the ground during the practice week.
I remember one year the AFC head coach we had wanted us to practice in full pads during the week and we determined as players that we weren't going to do that. We didn't raise a big stink with the league or anything, but we just approached the coach and said, 'Hey we just went through 17 weeks of this, we're not doing it out here.' And the coach didn't object or say anything to overrule it.
Some coaches were so good in taking it easy that we would just have some seven-on-seven drills and then a team drill and that was it as far as practice was concerned. It depended upon the coach you had, but most were pretty good in taking care of the players and not putting the players through the paces like you would in the regular season.
With the new format this year having the game a week before the Super Bowl instead of a week after, it takes the Super Bowl participants out of the game. So that means no Peyton Manning, no Drew Brees, no Dwight Freeney, no Marques Colston, no Reggie Wayne. It's something that I'm sure fans would have wanted to see.
Those players however, are probably thinking it's one less week they're on the field, which at this point in the year sounds pretty nice.
The other thing that's different with this new format is the Hall of Fame class misses out on a trip to Hawaii as well. The Pro Football Hall of Fame class is announced the day before the Super Bowl and then the following week the induction class would get to spend seven days in Hawaii during Pro Bowl week. And before the game they were announced and introduced on the field, so that was always a big deal for the Hall of Famers.
I'm sure they'll still be recognized at the Pro Bowl. It'll just be in a different venue.
It's unfortunate that Jairus Byrd won't be able to play in the game due to his surgery at the end of the season. I would have liked to see him up against some of the best in the game.
The game itself should still be entertaining. I know some of the best will be missing, but there is still going to be an awful lot of talent on that field Sunday night.