The NFL is replacing the Pro Bowl with week-long skills competitions and a flag football game, The Associated Press has learned.
The new event will replace the full-contact showcase launched in 1951. It will be renamed “The Pro Bowl Games” and will feature AFC and NFC players showcasing their football and non-football skills in multi-day challenges. The 2023 Games will be held in Las Vegas and the flag football match at Allegiant Stadium will take place on February 5.
Peyton Manning and his company Omaha Productions will help shape programming and promote event content throughout the week. Manning, a 14-time Pro Bowl selection during his Hall of Fame career, will provide his insight and will also be on the coaching staff for the flag game.
“The Pro Bowl is something that we’ve been looking at for a while, and it’s really continuing to evolve,” NFL executive Peter O’Reilly told The Associated Press. “Coming out of last year’s game, we really made the decision based on a lot of internal conversations, getting feedback from general managers and coaches, getting a lot of player feedback. We think it There’s a real opportunity to do something completely different here and move away from the traditional tackling game of football. We decided the goal was to celebrate 88 of the NFL’s biggest stars in a really positive way, fun and competitive.
“Very direct feedback from the guys who have been in the Pro Bowl recently was to keep building the week, make sure you have that multi-day element. It was overwhelmingly positive from both the players and the clubs.”
The Pro Bowl debuted in January 1951 in Los Angeles and stayed there for 21 seasons before the game moved to different cities from 1972 to 1980. Hawaii hosted from 1980 to 2009, and the game had several homes in the years that followed, including Miami, Phoenix, Orlando and Las Vegas.
The quality of Pro Bowl play has often been criticized. Players, understandably worried about getting hurt, treat it more like an exhibition than a competition. A flag football match could increase competition while avoiding potential injuries from tackles, blocks and kicks.
The NFL has a major interest in flag football. The league has partnered with the International Federation of American Football to bring flag football to the World Games in July with an eye on the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“You tap into everything that feels good about Pro Bowl week, the skills, the helmets off, the commitment, and then culminates that, keeping the AFC-NFC build, into something really important, that is flag football and this opportunity to have the best athletes in the NFL playing this game that is so much about the future of our sport,” said O’Reilly, league executive vice president, club affairs and events. “It’s been an evolution, but coming out of Las Vegas last year, we really focused on how to reinvent and celebrate our stars even better.”
The league plans to announce the new format on Monday.
“The Pro Bowl has always been a time to step back and celebrate football with teammates, fans and family,” Manning told the AP. “I’m grateful to be able to continue to be a part of the week as all of us at Omaha Productions work with the NFL to reinvent Pro Bowl games. Making Sunday’s game a flag football game is great to see. The Youth football has been hugely important to me, and knowing that the NFL FLAG will help grow the sport, I hope boys and girls can see themselves playing the same game as the best players in the world.”
Fan voting will always help determine AFC and NFC team rosters. Tom Brady has the most Pro Bowl invites with 15. Four players have received 14 invites, including Manning. The East-West Shrine Bowl will take place at Allegiant Stadium on February 2.
In 1999, Patriots rookie running back Robert Edwards suffered knee ligament damage and severed an artery in his left leg during an NFL-sanctioned beach flag football game during the Pro Bowl week. He missed the entire 1999 and 2000 seasons during knee rehabilitation.