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Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Rodgers adds weight to Pro Bowl criticism

By Kevin Seifert

It's one thing if you or me or your brother's friend's neighbor complains about the drama-less and effort-free Pro Bowl the NFL gave its fans Sunday. It's quite another when it comes from a starting quarterback, one who just so happens to play in this division and is the presumptive MVP of the entire league.

Rodgers
So perhaps Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' harsh assessment of Sunday's game will jump-start a league discussion about improving or altering the structure of the event. (We made our suggestions Monday.)

For those of you who weren't listening to Rodgers' weekly radio show on ESPN 540, he was direct and blunt from the start.

"I'll be honest with you," Rodgers said. "I was a little bit disappointed. I felt like some of the guys on the NFC side embarrassed themselves."

Rodgers didn't name names, and I can't be much help. Like many of you, I watched only parts of the game and couldn't stomach the rest. I did notice Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's particularly weak effort to tackle Derrick Johnson on a 60-yard interception return in the fourth quarter, but I truthfully don't know if Rodgers was referring to him or not.

"Just like I did in 2010, I took a lot of pride in the way I played," Rodgers said. "I wanted to make sure I knew the plays. It was our [Packers coaching] staff, which helped out a little bit, but I wanted to know the plays and I wanted to play well, and I wanted to give the fans a show, and make the Green Bay fans who watched and were watching for me and my teammates, I wanted to make them proud of their Pro Bowlers. I was just surprised that some of the guys either didn't want to play or when they were in there didn't put any effort into it."

Some of you might consider that sanctimonious preaching from a player who has evolved into one of the most recognizable and marketable names in the NFL. But it goes back to the idea that it's tough to pull something off at half speed. You do something right or not at all. Don't forget what Yoda said about the Pro Bowl: "Do or do not. There is no try."

(OK, so maybe he was talking about something else. But it still applies.)

Said Rodgers: "Overall, I was just disappointed by the lack of pride by some of the players that played in the game."

Rodgers suggested that some players might be motivated if there were a bigger spread between the winner's take ($50,000) and the loser's take ($25,000). That might be wishful thinking. Whether it's a matter of pride or practicality, the NFL will have to examine whether it's worth asking its top players to ramp up their effort level or if there is a better way to stage an end-of-season event for its all-stars.