HONOLULU — How much does $22,500 mean to the players here at the Pro Bowl?
With the week nearing its conclusion, the answer to that question is ultimately what will determine the quality of play for Sunday’s NFL all-star game at Aloha Stadium.
Look, nobody is looking to knock heads off during an exhibition game. But with the winner taking home a $45,000 check and the loser making $22,500, that’s pretty much the sole incentive to play hard — or at least somewhat hard.
After spending most of the week around the players at the Ihilani Resort and Spa, it’s pretty clear that in-season feuds and rivalries get thrown out the window for the sake of a good time. But now we’ll see just how much that vibe continues on Sunday.
» Not that practices were ever really tough, per se, but, as you might expect, AFC coach Bill Belichick ran a slight tighter ship than NFC coach Mike Smith. Generally, the AFC’s practices ran a little longer, especially on Friday after taking the team photo. Perhaps this gives the AFC an edge heading into the game.
» Ohana Day — something we missed last year in Miami — was a great way for both squads to cap off the week of practice. Throngs of fans showed up to watch their favorite players take the field for their final walk-through. And really, like pretty much every other practice this week, the workout was very lax, with many of the Pro Bowlers chit-chatting, goofing off and enjoying the lively atmosphere at the stadium.
» Don’t be surprised if Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd goes off and ends up being named the game’s most valuable player. Obviously, everyone here is honored to have made the Pro Bowl. But of all the players I spoke with this week, nobody meant it like Lloyd, who is looking to wow the crowd. So if Phillip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Matt Cassel decide to look Lloyd’s way often, I’d expect him to shine.