The NFL and NFL Players Association announced radical changes to the format of the beleaguered All-Star game on Wednesday, eliminating the traditional AFC vs. NFC matchup in favor of a fantasy draft-like roster selection.
Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni captains, choosing two rosters with the help of two NFL.com fantasy users.
"As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment," said NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth, who proposed the changes to the game. "To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas."
Under the new format, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. Players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, which will air on Wednesday, Jan. 22, on NFL Network. The 2014 Pro Bowl will be held on Sunday, Jan. 26, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Some other notable changes to the game, per the NFL and NFLPA press release:
»*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.