By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
It was the second day of practice for both the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl teams at the 2020 Pro Bowl. It was a typical Pro Bowl practice, lots of dancing, goofing off, and defensive players playing offensive positions. It’s a time for players to relax, enjoy time with fellow NFL players, spend some quality time with their families, and interact with fans.
But if you ever are able to come to the Pro Bowl and watch these practices, what you notice most is the fun the players are having on the field. It looks like one giant backyard game, where rules are loosely applied and roles are interchangeable.
At the end of practice, I was able to talk with a few players about coming to Orlando and getting to play in the Pro Bowl. Over and over the same theme was repeated, it’s all about hanging out with the guys. It’s a time for young players to meet their idols and for the vet players to see old friends that they may not have seen in a while.
I asked Andre Roberts, return specialist for the Buffalo Bills, about playing with players from other teams. “You have a lot of fun. You see some new guys, some new faces, and guys you would like to meet from around the league. It’s pretty cool
Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas echoed the sentiment. “Being around family is the most important, but being out here with all the guys…I mean its all the greats from around the league. The conversations have been great. This has been one of my best Pro Bowls. The memories are good.”
Tremaine Edmunds, linebacker for the Buffalo Bills has enjoyed being with other players, especially learning from them. With it being his first Pro Bowl, he sees it as an opportunity. “Just seeing everybody’s different perspective from the players and the coaches, it’s good. Hearing from different guys on how they play all goes hand in hand on how you play.”
As Thomas mentioned, it is also a great time to spend with family. The sidelines are full of kids, strollers, and family. The week in Orlando gives the players a lot of free time to enjoy everything the area offers.
Then there are the fans. A lot of fans. The way Pro Bowl week is set up, it gives the fans an opportunity to watch the conferences practice three different times throughout the week. There are bleachers set up on both sides of the field, so fans may line the edge, hoping that a player will come by to sign a souvenir. This is a big part of the Pro Bowl experience, especially because the fans are the ones who voted the players in.
The Pro Bowl may not be the most competitive game in the season, but what it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It gives the players that are chosen a chance to end the season, one that didn’t end the way they wanted it to, on a high note. It gives the fans a chance to interact with some of their favorite players, which is very hard to come by during the regular season.
I know it takes some flak from fans, but it is one of my favorite weeks in the NFL.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG