MANKATO, Minn. — Jared Allen has always appreciated the honor of being selected to the Pro Bowl and spending the week with his peers in Hawaii.
The Minnesota Vikings’ five-time Pro Bowl defensive end said one of his best NFL memories was his first Pro Bowl in 2007 and last year he waited out surgery on his left shoulder and right knee to appear in the game. As one of the perennial Pro Bowlers in the league, Allen is against the changes to the game that the league announced this week.
“I’m disappointed that it’s come to this and that we’re always trying to find some way to create new ratings or create a new fan experience,” Allen said Friday. “At some point it’s got to be about the players. This is our honor and they should at least talk to us before they make this change.”
The league made several radical changes to the Pro Bowl which will take place starting at the end of this season. Changes include the elimination of kickoffs and the elimination of the return spot in lieu of an extra defensive back, a change which has come under fire from some players. Return specialists will no longer be eligible to be selected and could lose money in regards to Pro Bowl incentives in their contracts.
The league announced the changes this week, stating they were made in conjunction with Dominique Foxworth, the president of the league’s players association. The league is also doing away with the traditional AFC vs. NFC format and will include a fantasy football-type televised draft in which players will be selected with the help of Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.
Eliminating the kickoffs, teams will start each quarter with possession on the 25-yard line. Other changes include a new two-minute warning at the end of the first and third quarters with the ball changing hands at the end of the quarter.
Voting will also change with rosters that will consist of 43 players per team, with selection no longer reserved for AFC and NFC squad. Defenses will also have the ability to play Cover-2 or press coverage as opposed to strict man coverages as in the past.
“These new rules I hear about are disappointing,” Allen said. “I think there wasn’t anything wrong with it as far as AFC-NFC and sometimes we try to change tradition, I don’t know why. I guess I can see if you’re going to take the best six at each position or whatever it is, all the new rules. Eliminating kickoff, that’s part of this game.
“At some point how many rules of the game do you change and you don’t have football anymore. Football is football at its purest form, and kickoff and kickoff return, and not to mention now you’re taking a Pro Bowl spot away from a Josh Cribbs. (Former Vikings returner) Percy Harvin made his first Pro Bowl as a return guy. So for me, I think you’re cheating the players. I’m personally not for it. We don’t have a say in it.”
Allen was one of seven players for the Vikings to participate last season and even waited on surgery. He was joined in Hawaii by running back Adrian Peterson, fullback Jerome Felton, left tackle Matt Kalil, linebacker Chad Greenway, kicker Blair Walsh and tight end Kyle Rudolph, who won the MVP award.
“You respect the fact that your peers voted you into the game,” Allen said of delaying surgery. “Your peers, the coaching staff and the fans thought you were an All-Star and that you got honored for that body of work that year. It still means something. It really does. From the way I understand it, you still have the voting process, it’s not just the NFC-AFC and then you’re going to have the whole draft and that kind of thing. Now a two-minute drill at the end of the game, we might as well have 7-on-7, sign some autographs and hang out by the pool, I guess.”