Source: Colts to leave Pro Bowl at halftime

Call it the semi-Pro Bowl.

The latest blow to Sunday’s maligned NFL all-star game: The seven Indianapolis Colts selected won’t stick around to watch the final outcome at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

A source told that those players will leave at halftime to rejoin their Colts teammates in Indianapolis.

Quarterback Peyton Manning, safety Antoine Bethea, tight end Dallas Clark, center Jeff Saturday, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, and defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were excused from Pro Bowl participation because the Colts reached Super Bowl XLIV. But they are required by the NFL to attend the Pro Bowl or forfeit the game checks that come with the honor. Players from the winning team receive $45,000; the losers $22,500.

The seven Colts players will fly to Fort Lauderdale after a Sunday morning practice, join the rest of the Pro Bowl squad and then return to South Florida on Monday morning to begin Super Bowl preparation.

Speaking on Indianapolis radio station WIBC-AM, Colts President Bill Polian ripped the NFL’s Pro Bowl planning and the trickle-down effect it’s having on his team. Polian also questioned why the league would force Colts selections to fly to South Florida “to do Lord knows what.”

An NFL spokesman said Colts players are allowed to leave the Pro Bowl at halftime after fulfilling media and television responsibilities. New Orleans’ seven Pro Bowl picks also will fly home on Sunday night and return to South Florida with their teammates Monday. It’s unknown whether the Saints players will stay for the entire Pro Bowl.

Besides the embarrassment of players not bothering to stay until the last whistle, the Pro Bowl is beset by a record 29 cancellations because of injuries or Super Bowl obligations. San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith and Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White were the latest replacements named Tuesday. They will take the NFC Squad spots of Minnesota’s Kevin Williams and Sidney Rice respectively.

As part of a one-year experiment, the NFL scheduled the Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl rather than after and moved the game from Hawaii for the first time since 1980. The site of next year’s game is not yet finalized, but a return to the old system seems likely considering the problems caused by the changes and negative feedback from players.