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Pro Bowl suggestion: College All-Star game

2/9/2012

Because one of our players started the ball moving on what could be substantial changes to the NFL's Pro Bowl, I'll take it upon myself to track suggestions and developments in that area. It's a tough and thankless job, but someone has to do it. I'm willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

Even before Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers criticized the effort level of some players in the Jan. 29 game, we passed along Patty's suggestion of scrapping the game and instituting an alternative competition -- skills, snail-eating, sludge swimming -- to benefit each player's favorite charity. To that list, we'll add a suggestion from NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, who suggested a revival and tweak of the once-annual Chicago Charities All-Star Football Classic between the best NFL and college players.

Longtime NFC North/Central fans will remember that game was typically played in the preseason between the reigning NFL champions and the top rookies entering the league. It ended in 1976 for a variety of reasons, including the interruption it caused to training camp.

But what if the NFL turned the Pro Bowl into the first step of the following season by putting on display the proverbial stars of tomorrow? It would add several levels of significance to the event, including another chance for coaches and scouts to work with and observe draft-eligible players. And, Collinsworth suggests, it would provide the NFL All-Stars with more motivation.

"NFL stars would be forced to bring their A-game or get their butt handed to them," Collinsworth writes.

Part of me thinks that it's too late to stuff the genie back into the bottle. Other than damaged pride, there still wouldn't be any consequences for a veteran player taking it easy. I wonder if the Pro Bowl game has run its course.

I realize many of you don't put this issue atop your list of concerns, but I for one would like to see a more interesting and significant conclusion to the NFL season each year. We might not have hit the right idea yet, but we should keep trying. Rodgers' comments have put NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the case, so let's try to think along with him and see what we can come up with.