The NFL won’t be heading to Las Vegas this January for the Pro Bowl. The league announced on Wednesday that while Pro Bowl voting will still take place among fans, players, and coaches, the game itself won’t be happening. Instead, the game will be replaced with what the league calls “a variety of engaging activities,” which isn’t helpful at all.
Here’s a chunk from the league’s press release announcing the decision.
The NFL will continue to recognize the players’ outstanding seasons and welcome fans to demonstrate their passion for their favorite players when voting for the 2021 Pro Bowl Roster begins on November 17th. The full Pro Bowl rosters will be revealed in December, where the players are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts as one-third toward determining the 88 All-Star players who are selected to the Pro Bowl roster.
Additionally, the league will work closely with the NFLPA and other partners, to create a variety of engaging activities to replace the Pro Bowl game this season. This virtual recognition of the season’s finest players will provide fans the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of their favorite stars.
The NFL and NFLPA’s intention is to play a full regular and postseason schedule, culminating at the Super Bowl.
No actual reasoning behind the decision was specified, but it’s easy to piece together the logic. The NFL has been forced to postpone and reschedule several games over the last two weeks due to positive COVID-19 tests, and this week, Commissioner Roger Goodell talked about the league’s “flexibility” in dealing with the pandemic. Cancelling the Pro Bowl gives the league another week to play with before the Super Bowl in the event that the regular season needs to be extended for another week. This would eliminate the bye week between the end of the conference championships and the Super Bowl, but sacrificing the Pro Bowl to keep the Super Bowl on the same date seems like a small price to pay, especially considering many of the Super Bowl week events will likely be scaled down (if not outright eliminated) because of the ongoing pandemic.
As for the “engaging activities” that will replace the game…I mean, how great can they actually be, especially if the regular season gets extended by another week? Are we going to get yet another Madden tournament? I’m not exactly tingling with excitement here.
This year’s Pro Bowl was supposed to air on ESPN (with a simulcast on ABC). The 2022 game’s network still hasn’t been announced (ESPN has had the rights to the game since 2015), but it will be held at Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Raiders in Las Vegas, as this year’s game was supposed to be.