"This is like the height of being an NFL player - being an all-star and having the opportunity to wear the red, white and blue - just having that jersey," said Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft. "Only a few people can say, `I've made it to the NFL,' but fewer number can say they've made it here."
In a game known to highlight offense, the NFC will feature two of the game's most prolific quarterbacks.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will start for the NFC and will be backed up by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. Rodgers passed for 4,463 yards with 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions. His quarterback rating of 122.5 set an NFL record. Brees, meanwhile, threw for 5,476 yards, breaking Dan Marino's single-season record.
Houston defensive end Antonio Smith acknowledges the NFC has a lot of great players on offense, but isn't too worried.
"I think any quarterback will tell you that we wish we were getting ready to play in a game a week from now, but it's always an honor to come," said Rivers, who this season joined Brees and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to pass for 4,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.
The players wrapped up a week of "workouts" on Saturday.
The brief practices have been as grueling and intense as a poolside, Hawaiian lomilomi massage. The players, some wearing sunglasses, often sweat more after practice - signing autographs for the fans.
After practice, the players usually spend their days golfing, fishing, shopping or lounging on the beach with their families. In a season that began with a bitter labor dispute is ending in paradise for these players.
"It's more than what I thought it would be. It's amazing. It's truly amazing," said Smith, making his first trip.
The players are hoping this won't be the final game in Hawaii. NFL and state officials are negotiating a deal to keep the game in the islands. Many said they wouldn't play if it were elsewhere.
"A lot of guys aren't trying to get hurt. I think it's going to be up tempo, but not too crazy," he said.
McCarthy said the game is all about the players, who earned this trip with their work during the season.
"I don't think anybody's too worried about how many touches they get or where the ball is going to go," he said.
Maybe with the exception of Jennings, who believes he has the inside track on the throws with his coaches calling plays and Rodgers as the signal caller.
"The other (receivers) already know, when I'm in the game, 85 is going to get the ball," Jennings said.
This year's winners will receive a record $50,000 each, up $5,000 from last year, with the losing players earning $25,000.
"I only know one way to prepare for a game. I don't know how to go half-speed," he said. "This is still a game. Guys still got on pads and coming out to compete."
Besides the money, conference bragging rights are on the line.
"It's still a pride thing - AFC vs. NFC," Gates said. "We feel like we are the tougher division and they feel the same."
Rivers said the money is important, but isn't the main motivator for these competitors.
"Even if we were playing for nothing, when it comes down to it, they're still keeping score," he said.
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