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Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Belichick bites tongue on Pro Bowl loafing

By Mike Sando

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Belichick seemed to weigh his options carefully when asked about Aaron Rodgers' complaints about the Pro Bowl lacking a certain competitive zeal.

"Um, what I'm going to say wouldn't be probably what I should say," the New England Patriots' coach said Wednesday during his Super Bowl news conference.

Belichick paused.

"I'm going to let that one go," he said.

Another pause.

"What it was and what it is now is a lot different," he added.

What the Pro Bowl was long ago -- a marginally competitive all-star game featuring final scores such as 10-6, 23-21 and 23-10 -- has turned into a game where the losing team routinely has 30-plus points. Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers' Pro Bowl quarterback, lamented the NFC squad's lack of competitiveness during a 59-41 defeat Sunday. He said some players from the NFC squad embarrassed themselves with their lack of effort.

Rodgers did not name guilty parties, of course. NFC West teams had 17 Pro Bowlers this season, including some who withdrew from the game.

Once Belichick's news conference finished, I went across the hall to poll New England players on the subject during their daily media session.

"I tried to go hard in the game," said linebacker Jerod Mayo, a Pro Bowl selection in 2010. "The harder you go, the less likely you are to get injured. You try to tempo it a little bit, you're probably going to get hurt."

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, a four-time Pro Bowl choice, advocates caution.

"Guys play a full season, they play physical through a full season, and you get rewarded," Wilfork said. "The last thing you want to do is go out in a game like that and hurt yourself. That is not good for the individual or for the organization."

Guard Logan Mankins, also a four-time Pro Bowl selection, said he doubts there's a realistic way to ramp up competitiveness.

"I don't know how you fix it," Mankins said. "You're going to give a little effort, but you're not going to get out of control. Some guys are free agents over there. You get hurt in a Pro Bowl and it's going to affect that contract with another team. Who would want to get hurt in a Pro Bowl and not be able to play the next season?"