The future of the Pro Bowl has been a front-and-center topic at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix, and structural changes to the financial awards and selection of teams are on the table, a high-ranking league official said Tuesday.
The game also could be moving. The NFL official said the league will have an announcement in the coming days about future locations for the game, and it's possible it could move from Hawaii and rotate to different sites.
The source said the NFL is considering breaking up the compensation structure for the game by halves, or even by quarters, in order to ratchet up the in-game intensity. The league also is considering adding two-minute warnings to end of the first and third quarters, to produce games within the game to create tangible rewards in making every play more important. Rewards for big plays also are a possibility.
The "draft" concept -- which the NHL once used in its all-star game -- is "not a done deal," according to the source, but it's closer to being implemented than the other elements. The league is considering having captains select teams and is working on the mechanics of the proposed change, which would include the timing of the draft, the opportunity to televise the draft, uniforms, team names and rules. The league has a working group that will deal with those details later this week, after the meetings in Phoenix are over.
The one thing that won't change, at least in the short term, is the date of the game. The league plans to keep it during the bye week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, citing annual ratings in the 7s since the change was made in 2010. This year's game scored a 7.1 rating and, according to the Boston Globe, drew 12.2 million viewers. While viewership was down 3 percent from the previous year, the Pro Bowl remained the most-watched all-star game of the four major sports.
The league met with the players' union at last month's NFL Scouting Combine to discuss the changes, and the parties have been cooperating with similar goals to keep the game alive and improve it in any way possible. The NFL hopes to have the changes in place for the spring meeting in May.
"There's no sacred cow, expect to make sure that whatever the group pulls together, the competition committee has a chance to review that," the source said. "We know what all the questions are. We don't have all the answers."
The other issue facing both sides is participation. The source says the union has recognized that as a problem and is leading the charge in trying to address it.