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Some first-time Pro Bowlers will miss chance to participate

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- To reach the Super Bowl is why teams like the Colts forsake a shot at an undefeated season to rest their starters and why coaches, like the Saints' Sean Payton, put key players like tight end Jeremy Shockey on a limited play count so they can be healthy when it matters most.

Getting to the Super Bowl also draws attention -- Pro Bowl recognition -- to some guys who might normally get overshadowed, like Saints offensive linemen Jahri Evans, Jonathan Stinchcomb and Jonathan Goodwin, or Colts safety Antoine Bethea.

Welcome to South Florida's editors and columnists are on the scene in South Florida, bringing you the Pro Bowl experience through the eyes and ears of the 86 players making up the rosters. **Pro Bowl blog**

At a time when players are pulling out of the restructured Pro Bowl like it's a nuisance, there are some who can't play and aren't overly happy that they don't have a choice whether to participate because they've reached the Super Bowl.

The Saints and Colts have 14 guys that have been replaced in the NFL's All-Star exhibition Jan. 31 because they have the Big (and real) Game the following Sunday for the Lombardi Trophy. The obvious reason Super Bowl guys won't compete is to avoid injury.

One Saints player told me this week that even though he couldn't be more thrilled to be playing in the Super Bowl, he would love to experience playing -- yes, playing -- in the Pro Bowl since he was a first-time selection. He added that some of his teammates who also were first-time selections don't like the fact that they're being stripped of the option to participate as well.

Super Bowl players will be honored at the Pro Bowl in Miami, but that's the extent of their roles. I've got a feeling that those who feel even the smallest bit of Pro Bowl denial will get over it once the reality of playing in the Super Bowl takes hold. It's probably a lot easier to be a repeat Pro Bowl participant than it is to reach even one Super Bowl.

If it's any consolation, those Super Bowl players who were voted to the Pro Bowl and were wise enough to negotiate Pro Bowl escalators into their contracts should be getting a nice bonus, even though they won't suit up. Their replacements, on the other hand, most likely won't trigger Pro Bowl incentive bonuses because they're stand-ins.

A general manager told me that typically, Pro Bowl bonuses usually are awarded only to players who were voted in by fans, players and coaches and in some cases, are first alternates. That's not always the case depending on how a contract is structured, but that's pretty much standard operating procedure.

A Super Bowl matchup to watch

In last weekend's conference championship games, we saw Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian and Colts wideout Pierre Garcon have big games. Don't be shocked to see Garcon and fellow wide receiver Austin Collie targeted heavily by Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl.

That's not because they have favorable matchups, but because Indy's No. 1 wideout, Reggie Wayne, will be matched against the most overlooked player in the postseason: Saints cornerback Jabari Greer.

Greer is easy to miss since he just got back into action in the season finale after being sidelined for seven games with a sports hernia. However, the one-time Buffalo Bills starter who the Saints quietly signed last summer in free agency, is a dazzling coverage player who might limit Wayne's opportunities.

Greer, playing mainly man coverage, helped hold Minnesota's Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice to four catches for 43 yards on Sunday. Greer had two pass breakups to go along with his eight tackles against Minnesota. This isn't a one-game fluke. Before he got hurt, Greer was having a Pro Bowl-caliber season with 13 passes defended and two interceptions, one returned 48 yards for a touchdown against the Falcons.

Greer could be locked into Wayne for most of the game, like he was with Minnesota's Rice. If that's the case, expect to hear Garcon's and Collie's names called a lot, again.

Favre's future

The speculation about Brett Favre's future in Minnesota will occupy us all, but my thought is that he will be back.

Right now, following the beating he took in the overtime loss to the Saints, he's probably wishing that he never took up the sport. I can't imagine him being able to feel anything close to healthy for weeks. However, anyone who watched Favre this season, and especially in that NFC Championship Game, saw a guy who is playing the game for the right reasons.

Sure, he may have wanted to stick it to Green Bay, enhance his legend or fuel his ego, but a lot of players play for those reasons, with some other team, coach or person taking the place of the Packers in this instance. His drama has worn us all thin, too.

Aside from all that, watching him do what he did, and lift 52 teammates and a fan base that used to despise him, showed me a guy who loves what he does for a living. I've spoken to some players and other folks in the Vikings organization and they love Favre for a lot of different reasons. I can't see them not trying to persuade him to come back if he feels up to it.

Favre will be conflicted and will waffle as would a lot of us if we were tired and secure, but loved what we did and were capable of doing it. I just can't see how, if he's healthy in body and mind, he walks away -- and not because he didn't get the Vikings to the Super Bowl or because his last pass was a costly pick.

I think he loves it too much.

And for as much grousing as some of us have done about him, you have to admit that he made this season a lot more interesting than if he was out of the game and the Vikings were still a quarterback short of being one of the better teams in the NFL.

Harvin to undergo more tests

Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin is expected to undergo extensive and comprehensive medical tests this offseason to try and figure out how to treat his debilitating migraine headaches, according to a team source.

Harvin went through a thorough exam in December at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., after having to miss a game because of migraines, but the symptoms have been so frequent and so severe that his quality of life has been disrupted, the source said. Harvin could not fully participate in practice leading up to last week's NFC Championship loss to New Orleans -- one of many times he missed workouts because of the migraines.

It's clear that Harvin endeared himself to his coaches and teammates -- especially Favre -- and, according to more than one team source, he is viewed like a son or little brother to some in the organization. There are a lot of people hoping something can be done, and not simply because they want him on the football field.

A side note

The Saints' Roman Harper told me it was his team's game plan to batter Favre in the NFC Championship Game.

"He's seen every coverage and blitz there is," Harper said. "We figured we had to hit him and hit him hard to try and rattle him. It probably was the only way to get him off his game."

Harper, like several of his teammates, marveled at Favre's ability to get back up and play with the frequent hard hits that were leveled.

The other "best" offseason move

While Favre's acquisition in Minnesota might be viewed as the best move of the offseason, an argument could be made for the Saints' acquisition of safety Darren Sharper. Sharper's nine interceptions in the regular season and two postseason takeaways have spearheaded the Saints' opportunistic defense.

Unlike Favre, Sharper only signed a one-year deal last summer with a base salary of $1 million. He could be on the open market after the season if the Saints don't re-sign him. Sharper said there haven't been any talks regarding his retention, but he said he's not worried at all because, "those things have a way of working themselves out."

The right Hue

I like the Raiders' hiring of former Ravens quarterback coach Hue Jackson as the team's offensive coordinator. Though Jackson might not be able to get any more out of quarterback JaMarcus Russell than previous coaches, it won't be for a lack of trying.

Jackson is a great communicator, who knows how to develop trust and faith in his pupils. He did it when he was with the Bengals and he helped quarterback Joe Flacco get the Ravens to the playoffs in his first two seasons.

I saw how well Jackson worked firsthand when he served as Bobby Petrino's offensive coordinator in Atlanta when I covered the Falcons for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Although Petrino designed and called plays, Jackson was in charge of teaching things in meetings and on the field.

Jackson really worked well with quarterback Michael Vick in offseason drills before Vick got tangled up with the law. And even when that went sideways, Jackson didn't abandon Vick. He stayed in communication with him and tried his best to keep Vick's best interests at heart, while also working to get whatever he could from Joey Harrington, and later Chris Redman.

When Petrino bolted at the end of the 2007 season, Jackson took over play-calling duties and was wise enough to scale back the playbook to play to Redman's skill set and actually get the offense to show some life.

If Jackson can get anything out of Russell -- or whomever ends up playing quarterback for the Raiders -- he could, and should be on the evolving list of future head coaching candidates.

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