- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was one of four active players named as a captain for this year's new Pro Bowl format. He and St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn will work together to select one of the teams in a schoolyard-style draft. Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt are the other captains.
The captains are the two leading vote getters on offense and defense -- not counting players involved in this weekend's conference championship games.
Former players Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders and two NFL.com fantasy football champions will also be involved in the draft process -- with Rice and Sanders having final say over their respective rosters. The pairing of captains will be determined by a coin toss next Tuesday morning. The draft will then be televised next Tuesday and Wednesday nights on the NFL Network, followed by the game on NBC on Sunday, January 26.
The new format was designed this year to add some spice to the annual all-star game. The best part of Thursday's news for Brees is that he won't be playing against Quinn, who sacked him twice in the Rams' 27-16 upset over New Orleans last month. But in a quirky new twist this year, Brees could wind up playing against Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan if he gets selected by the opposing team.
Saints coach Sean Payton was asked earlier this week -- only half-jokingly -- if he'd instruct Jordan to take it easy if that happens.
“These conflicts of interest,” Payton said with a laugh. “We had a chance to coach in that game (after the 2006 season), and I think shortly there into it our quarterback got hurt (a dislocated elbow). Look, it's a great honor for us to send players to that game. Obviously the format is changing, which creates some interesting scenarios. I think it's a great time for them but just as important -- and I think they'd tell you this -- they have a chance to bring their coaches from high school, their family, and really celebrate the type of season they had. I think it's one of the great things about that game that this league does. There are a lot of people behind the scenes: aunts, uncles, moms, dads that have a huge interest in a player's success. Often times, having been there once, you get to see those other people really enjoy it with them.
“All of them staying healthy would be your first goal, but you're excited for them.”