Pro Bowl Moves To Orlando; Changes Format

The National Football League on Wednesday announced its annual Pro Bowl will move to Orlando, and will feature an AFC vs. NFC format.


By Conor OrrAround The NFL Writer

The Pro Bowl is returning to its Florida roots.

In addition to a move away from its longtime base in Honolulu, the now Orlando-based all-star game will feature an AFC vs. NFC matchup, the NFL announced Wednesday in a news conference. This is the first time since 2012 that the league is using the traditional format following a three-year experiment with unconferenced squads, which featured past NFL legends drafting from pools of Pro Bowl eligible players.

Team Irvin destroyed a poorly constructed Team Rice 49-27 in the final non-conference aligned All-Star game last season.

"We are excited to re-imagine the Pro Bowl experience for both fans and players and to celebrate the game of football at all levels," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

"Collaborating with Disney and ESPN brings us closer to the best in youth and family-focused entertainment. We look forward to working with the city of Orlando and Florida Citrus Sports to create a week-long celebration for football and our fans."

The tie-in with Disney and television partner ESPN made Orlando an obvious destination for a Pro Bowl switch despite interest from several other cities, including the host of this year's Super Bowl in Houston.

Practices will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort simultaneously with youth football events and a fan fest.

Pro Bowl players also will be able to bring their former high school football or Pop Warner coach, and participants on the winning team will earn a grant from the NFL Foundation to aid in the development of their high school programs.

There will be a Pro Bowl-themed 5K run, a parade of Pro Bowl players in the Magic Kingdom and Pro Bowl-themed elements throughout Disney Springs, Disney's newest entertainment and dining destination.

Rethinking the Pro Bowl was on Goodell's docket after a disappointing 2015 game. During his annual state of the league address at the Super Bowl, he said the game likely would not survive in its current format.

"I think our biggest standard has to be what we expect from the NFL and what our fans expect from the NFL," Goodell said back in February. "If it's not quality, it's not a real competition that we can be proud of, we have to do something different. That's my number one priority right now. I'm open to new ideas, I'm open to how we do it, but it's not the kind of game that I think we want to continue to have in its current format, based on what we saw last week."

No changes to the actual competition were mentioned in the release.

In Honolulu last year, Giants quarterback Eli Manning mentioned that a competitive nature was important for the Pro Bowl when pressed by local fans who demanded a better game. That sentiment was weighted against the plight of Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, who recently underwent surgery on his ankle after sustaining an injury in the game.

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