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Sunday, August 4, 2013
Jerry Rice blames Pro Bowl's players

ESPN.com news services

Jerry Rice, enlisted as an honorary captain to help pick one side for the newly formatted Pro Bowl, still isn't sure the changes can save the game.

Rice, speaking during the Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities in Canton, Ohio, this weekend, said what truly needs an overhaul is the outlook of the players selected.

Rice How can you get the players to recognize that it's an honor? You've got to play your best football in the Pro Bowl. So the spirit of this needs to be changed. I'm not sure that can be accomplished.

-- Jerry Rice

"You've got prima donnas, egocentrics, who act like it's not an honor," Rice told USA Today Sports. "Plus, they're thinking, 'Why should I go and jeopardize what I'm doing?' But it should be for the fans.

"How can you get the players to recognize that it's an honor? You've got to play your best football in the Pro Bowl. So the spirit of this needs to be changed. I'm not sure that can be accomplished now."

Rice agreed along with fellow Hall of Famer Deion Sanders to assist two captains -- the top two vote-getters -- and two NFL.com fantasy football champions in picking the two teams starting with next season's Pro Bowl, to be held Jan. 26, 2014, four days after the "draft" for the game. In addition, kickoffs will be eliminated from the game as a safety measure, one of several changes to the game.

"I don't know if this will help the Pro Bowl survive," Rice said, according to USA Today.

Among other changes, a coin toss will determine which squad gets the game's opening possession, and the ball will be placed at the 25-yard line at the start of the game and after scoring plays. Since there will be no kickoffs, the kick-return specialist Pro Bowl roster spot will be replaced with an additional defensive back spot.

But Rice, a 13-time Pro Bowler, reiterated the perception of the event and of being selected remain the biggest hurdles.

"If they want a vacation, go to the Bahamas," said Rice, who also works as an ESPN analyst. "Back in the day, it was an honor to play in the Pro Bowl."