There's been talk that Sunday's Pro Bowl game may have been the last one. Big contracts and the threat of injury have affected the quality of play the last five years.
But if the future of the Pro Bowl is doomed, don't blame the six Seahawks that represented the NFC on Sunday in Hawaii.
Rookie phenomenon Russell Wilson continued to prove that he can excel at any level. Whether it's a preseason game, a postseason game on the road, an all-star game in paradise or a flag football game at the Boys & Girls Club in Tacoma, Wilson comes to play. He completed eight of his 10 passes – three for touchdowns – and had the highest QB rating in a game that featured Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Eli Manning.
He also had the most exciting play of the day, peeling away from a sure J.J. Watt sack to find fellow rookie Doug Martin for a touchdown. He did us all proud and even managed his signature "Go Hawks" in his postgame interview. Man, I love that kid!
Safety Earl Thomas had an interception and the kind of hit on Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was looking for in this game. The pansy-turned-tough-guy-commish who favored touch football all season long was suddenly blood thirsty before this year's all-star game and warned the participants they better forget he ever uttered the phrase "defenseless receiver" if they want to keep their game alive. Earl Thomas was happy to oblige and flew around the field like he always does.
Leon Washington returned four kickoffs for 167 yards, including a 92-yarder that electrified the laid back crowd in Honolulu. He also returned four punts for 18 yards and outshined his AFC rival, Josh Cribbs, the co-owner of Washington's NFL-record eight kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Marshawn Lynch had just 21 yards rushing but that led all running backs in a pass happy game that was 75 percent passing. He had one "Beast Mode" run for 12 yards, dragging five tacklers along for the ride.
Judging the offensive-line play in the game was difficult, but center Max Unger and tackle Russell Okung played hard every snap.
Perhaps I had a biased eye on this game, but it looked to me like the six Seahawks in this game all played for keeps and did the game proud.
Roger Goodell – suddenly a tough guy?
Goodell warned players from both sides that if they didn't play harder this year, the game may go away for good. Last year's game was a joke. The offensive and defensive linemen embraced each other on every play and "hugged it out" until the music stopped. It looked like a slow dance at Anna McKinney Jr. high (my alma mater).
I agree with the commish on this one even though I disagree with every other word that comes out of his mouth when it comes to hitting and penalties during the regular season. No one wants to watch a walk-through. It's not like the NBA All-Star game where you can get away with dogging it on defense. It's much more obvious in football and the fans are starting to voice their displeasure.
However, this brings up an interesting point about the commish. He's not on the humanitarian mission he would lead us all to believe. It's about money, whether that means revenue or the NFL's image in this big concussion lawsuit. If the Pro Bowl game goes downhill, so do the television ratings that lead to big network checks.
Makes you wonder what he would say about hits to the head and defenseless receiver penalties if NFL fans turned against the kinder, gentler game that Goodell now promotes. I've always thought that it's the big hits and physical nature of football that NFL fans love more than long bombs and 500-yard passing games. I think the fans like 500-yard passing games as long as the threat of someone getting their head taken off to accomplish that still exists.
If too many penalties and fines for big hits started turning people away from the NFL and revenue started to suffer because of it, you'd see Goodell morph into Vince McMahon so fast your head would spin. Roger would shed that Park Avenue suit for a cut off T-shirt and a barbed-wire tattoo and take to shotgunning beers in the parking lot before he'd let that happen.
It's about the money, Roger – grow up!
But it may be doomed anyway
Here's the fundamental problem with the Pro Bowl: Peyton Manning, the AFC starting quarterback, picks up a $2 million check every other week in Denver. Julius Peppers, a starting defensive end for the NFC, picks up a $1 million check in Chicago every other week.
Why would either of those players play their hardest, risking injury, in order to pick up a $50,000 check if they win and a $25,000 check if they lose?
This year's ratings may tell that story. Although it was still a high scoring affair, there were some incidents of decent effort and some entertaining plays. Especially from our six beloved Seahawks.
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