Sports | May 24, 2022 1:42 pm

The NFL Is Finally Considering Cutting the Pro Bowl. They Should.

Pro football does not translate to a boring exhibition game that no one watches or cares about — even the players

The Pro Bowl logo is seen on a football
The Pro Bowl logo is seen on a football.
Kent Nishimura/Getty

Among the topics being discussed at the NFL’s spring league meetings in Atlanta are ways to improve the annual Pro Bowl which is typically held at a warm-weather location during the bye week before the Super Bowl.

One idea being floated around to fix the Pro Bowl, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, is to get rid of it altogether. “The NFL is discussing the Pro Bowl week and ways to improve it — including possibly eliminating the traditional game and using that Sunday to showcase the players in it,” he wrote on Twitter. “Essentially, what are the alternatives? The reality is, the traditional Pro Bowl game is not what it should be. So, what else can be done? Would a flag football game with some of the NFL’s stars be better? That’s just one possible solution.”

While the idea of changing the game from what is essentially two-hand touch with pads on to straight-up flag football seems reasonable, it’d be wise to remember what happened to rookie running back Robert Edwards after he agreed to play in a four-on-four flag football game on Waikiki Beach with other promising first-year players like the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning and the Oakland Raiders’ Charles Woodson in an event leading up to the Pro Bowl in 1999.

Edwards, who rushed for 1,115 yards as a rookie for the New England Patriots, went up to defend a pass and ripped apart all four major ligaments in his left knee along with the artery that supplies blood to the lower leg when he crashed to the sand. Edwards was able to make it back into the NFL after years of rehab, but his career as a pro football player essentially ended that day in Hawaii.

Is there any reason to think that the league transitioning the current 11-on-11 game to flag football would automatically result in similar injuries? To be fair, probably not. But all it would take is one. Imagine if it had been Manning or Woodson, both of whom went on to have Hall-of-Fame careers and win the Super Bowl, who had been ruined that day in the sand. That is something NFL shouldn’t have risked then and shouldn’t risk now.

So keep voting for Pro Bowlers (many players have bonuses tied to being selected so that’s not going anywhere) and keep holding the pregame skills competitions (substantially more entertaining than the game itself) but get rid of the actual Pro Bowl. No one wants to watch it, no one wants to play in it and no one wants another Edwards ruined in a meaningless exhibition game.