The AFC Pro Bowl team welcomed three new members to practice on Thursday, as the three all-stars from the Pittsburgh Steelers -– James Farrior, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu -– practiced for the first time this week.
Before practice began, Polamalu grabbed an end zone pylon and placed it behind his helmet as a cushion and sat down to chat with his Pittsburgh teammates and former teammate Joey Porter as they stretched (Porter did most of the talking). A few minutes later the air horn blew and practice was underway.
Standing on the sideline, watching the defensive all-stars go through drills, was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The NFL announced in December that the 2010 Pro Bowl would move from Hawaii — where it has been held the last 30 years — to the host Super Bowl city next year, Miami. The game will take place the Sunday between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, instead of the Sunday after the Super Bowl.
Goodell implied that the league might not have said its final Aloha to Hawaii.
“The reality is that we’d like to be back on a rotational basis,” he said.
The NFL would like to bring greater attention to its all-star game and give more exposure to its players, and moving it to the mainland as part of the Super Bowl event would make it more accessible for the hundreds of millions of Americans who don’t live on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
“We just came off maybe the greatest game in the history of the NFL last week and we’re coming back to play in the Pro Bowl,” Goodell said. “Had this been a lead-up to that, it potentially could have put more attention on the Pro Bowl, and the players themselves… and the Super Bowl, for that matter.”
Pro Bowlers Ray Lewis, Clinton Portis and others have said this week that they’d prefer to keep the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Goodell said that he met with the players advisory council more than a year ago and that players’ input was integral to the league’s decision-making about its all-star game.
No decisions have been made about the future of the Pro Bowl beyond 2010, as the NFL will wait for the results of the Miami experiment first.
“We’ll see what we learn from next year, ” Goodell said.