In more ways than one, this is the season of change for the NFL's annual Pro Bowl. The 2010 Pro Bowl is the first to be played prior to the Super Bowl and only the second Pro Bowl played in the same city as the Super Bowl. For the first time since 1980, the game is being held at a location other than Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The changes surrounding the Pro Bowl have brought mixed reaction on several fronts. For the 14 players in Super Bowl XLIV -- seven each from the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints -- they're unable to take part. Playing the game two weeks earlier has meant a quicker turnaround for those who are playing, some just a week removed from their last game. While the allure of a season-ending celebration in Hawaii has changed, the location is more convenient for many players, families and fans to reach. The sold out game will also be played in front of fans in an NFL host city.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys:
"I think guys like it in Hawaii. I can't speak for everyone, but I still think they're enjoying this and the opportunity it is. No question it's a tough turnaround after the season, having it in Hawaii later helps out. It's a drawback from that standpoint, but still a great honor.
"There's no question you feel a part of the buzz leading up to the Super Bowl. I think people appreciate and understand it's still football season, and we're leading up to the big prize. It is neat to be a part of that, and experience that."
Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens:
"I think it's two-fold. You get everyone coming down here before the Super Bowl, but I think even for the guys who win it, the honor is just that. The Pro Bowl was always an extra honor after the Super Bowl, and then they got to come over and really relax and enjoy themselves. Now, for the guys who win the Super Bowl, they just go back to their time and it's pretty much over.
"I think being congratulated by your peers is a different respect from everyone else. When you got to the Pro Bowl and you just won the Super Bowl, everyone is saying what a great job you did. I think that's a greater reward than anything.
"It is two-fold. Because having it in the states does bring you back home to the people who pay their hard-earned money every week to support us as fans. You can kind of push-pull with the issue. There's some good and bad to it.
"I think everyone, ultimately, wants to be in the big game. But I think it's unfortunate that after it's all over, they aren't rewarded after that."
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles:
"It is tough, because not everyone gets an opportunity to be involved. It's unfortunate, but the exciting part about it is we're here.
"We'll just have to see how it plays out. The turnaround isn't that tough, we get it out of the way."
Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota Vikings:
"I'm not sure it really matters to the guys who aren't playing in the Super Bowl. This is my seventh one, it's not in Hawaii, but I'm not sure if when it's held makes a difference. It doesn't feel any different so far. For me, this is my hometown, so it's a little different.
"I think there's probably a little bit more excitement because the Super Bowl is next week. There's a lot of people, a lot of buzz around the area. It's just different -- I don't know if it's a good or bad thing. It's an honor when you get voted by your peers and the coaches around the league, and I try to make it a point to come and play if it's physically possible.
"It's not easy getting to Hawaii for the average fan in the mainland. Especially in the Midwest or the East Coast, that's a long flight. It's probably easier for everyone in general to come here. Especially, with the Super Bowl, there's a lot going on here anyway. I think they're trying to extend the feel of the Super Bowl by a week."