The 2020 NFL Pro Bowl took place today in Orlando, Florida. Although the game has quickly lost its’ importance over the years, by way of the selection process and the questionable effort that takes place, it’s still an accolade that sticks with players for the rest of their careers.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett were originally voted in, although Jones decided not to participate this year. Tight end Austin Hooper was selected as an alternate and was added to the NFC roster later after San Francisco 49ers’ tight end George Kittle dropped out due to his team making Super Bowl LIV.
The game itself had a different tone, especially if you watched on television via ESPN. News broke just before the game that NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and several others were killed in a helicopter crash just outside Los Angeles. Players were constantly asked throughout the game what their thoughts and stories on Bryant were, and the commentators Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland could barely hold back their emotions during multiple segments of the game.
Fans at the Pro Bowl broke out in "Kobe" chants when he was honored during a timeout. pic.twitter.com/VAQHYzQ28m— ESPN (@espn) January 26, 2020
The game was still played, with Falcons’ stars Grady Jarrett and Austin Hooper participating. Jarrett had a pretty quiet day in the defensive line rotations. He finished with 1 tackle. Hooper finished his 2nd straight Pro Bowl with one reception for 3 yards, which came from Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson.
What was interesting was the NFL used the Pro Bowl to try out multiple rule changes, which could affect the way onside kicks occur, if ever implemented. After scoring a touchdown and going for a 2-point conversion, the NFC was allowed to go for a 4th & 15 from their very own 25-yard line instead of attempting an onside kick. This experimental rule change would make it easier for teams who are in-need of an onside kick, which is typically only 10 percent successful, to instead let their offense try and keep the ball. If they fail, as the NFC did during the Pro Bowl, the opposing team starts wherever the unsuccessful attempt failed.
It’s a pretty interesting rule, and figures to come when the Falcons have themselves an onside kick specialist in kicker Younghoe Koo. The AFC went on to win the game, 38-33.
The Pro Bowl itself is being played annually just for fun at this point. The game has no real meaning, but only to attempt to honor the best of the best in the NFL today. What does matter is today we received another reminder of how unpredictable life is. Kobe Bryant is an NBA legend, and his accolades are a mile long. Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and several others who passed in the terrible accident were human beings, who are now gone far too soon. Some things are bigger than sports, and I hope that all of you reading this reflect on those that you care about and cherish the time you spend with them.