ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --So long, AFC vs. NFC – there's a new Pro Bowl format in town.
The 2014 Pro Bowl – which will take place on Sunday, January 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu and will be televised by NBC – will feature a new format based on major changes proposed by NFLPA President Dominique Foxworth. The changes are intended to make the game more fan-friendly and interactive.
That means the traditional AFC vs. NFC matchup – which has existed since 1971 – will be replaced by a format where players are selected to the Pro Bowl without regard to conference.
"As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment," Foxworth said. "To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas."
Players will be selected through voting by fans, coaches and players - for example, the top six quarterbacks following voting will be designated as all-stars regardless of the conference they play in. The top vote-getters at each position will be assigned to teams through the inaugural Pro Bowl Draft.
The Pro Bowl Draft will take place on Wednesday, January 22 and will involve two of the leading vote getters, who will serve as Pro Bowl team captains and will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions in drafting the rosters for the two Pro Bowl teams.
Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will chip in their expertise in the process as well, serving as alumni team captains and assisting the Pro Bowl captains and fantasy champions with the draft process.
The roster format is not the only change coming to the game in 2014, however.
Here's a look some of the other changes that fans have to look forward to in January:
- Game within the Game – A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct "two-minute drills," which are especially exciting for fans.
- No Kickoffs – The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
- Rosters – The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
- Cover Two and Press Coverage – The defense will be permitted to play "cover two" and "press" coverage. In previous years, only "man" coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
- Stopping of the Game Clock – Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
- Game Timing – The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
- Play Clock – A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
- Sacks – The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.