Ware: Eli playing like a Manning

Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware certainly is familiar with the Giants, having played his NFC East rivals twice this season. Ware said the key for the Super Bowl-bound team is how well they’ve come together at the end of the season and having a quarterback with the last name Manning.

“They can’t say that (Eli Manning) is not that type of quarterback, that he’s not a Manning,” Ware said on the NFL Network set Thursday. “Oh yes he is. He is a Manning, and he’s playing really well.”

And now … a calf-roping lesson from Jared Allen

In case you’ve never seen a defensive end teach another defensive end wearing a ski mask how to rope a calf …

We bring you Jared Allen and Antonio “Ninja Assassin” Smith getting serious after Thursday’s Pro Bowl practice session.

Rivers: Chargers not far off

Philip Rivers took some time out of Pro Bowl preparations to sit down with NFL Network’s Fran Charles and Marshall Faulk to talk about what the Chargers need to do next season to be a better team.

“First and foremost, we have to take care of the ball,” Rivers said. “I think that’s one thing we’ve been able to do in years past. This year, I didn’t do a good job of it. We didn’t do a good job of taking care of it, and we didn’t get big takeaways.”

Rivers said the key for the Chargers to win a few more games — they went 8-8 this season — is in execution.

“A lot of times, you look at 8-8 or 9-7 and you get too caught up in what’s wrong instead of, ‘Let’s just play a little better and fine-tune some things,’ ” he said. “Because the difference in an 8-8 or a 9-7 team to that 11-5, 12-4 team is not a whole lot.”

Rivers pointed to the Giants as a team that came together late in the season to make a Super Bowl run.

“They were 7-7 and almost out, and now they’re playing for a championship,” Rivers said.

Watch: The Jared Allen Experience

Yesterday, we brought you Jared Allen‘s strategy for taking things slow during Pro Bowl week, but don’t miss him wired for sound and wearing a helmet cam during Pro Bowl practice.

Pro Bowl newbies on high alert for rookie hazing

HONOLULU — The Peyton Manning void is being felt beyond the football field here in Hawaii.

Long known as a practical joker, Manning, an 11-time Pro Bowl QB, has been known to add a certain levity to the proceedings. His best-known prank, according to those who have seen it in action, is to sign a few meals under the room of some unsuspecting rookie or Pro Bowl newbie.

But with Manning not around — this is the first time since 2002 he hasn’t been voted to the Pro Bowl — the practical joking has taken a backseat to sun tanning and paddle boarding.

That doesn’t mean the first-timers aren’t on high alert here.

“I’m hoping that nothing like that happens,” Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton said.

“I was already told not to give out your room number,” Saints second-year TE Jimmy Graham said. “I’ve probably had 10 guys ask me for my room number. I’ve given them all fake numbers, so somebody’s got a crazy bill, I’m sure.”

Steelers WR Mike Wallace has been in the league for three years, but this is his first as a Pro Bowler, and he’s not about to let his guard down.

“Everybody’s been pretty cool, but they just told me in the huddle that they’re going to get me,” Wallace said after Thursday’s practice. “I’m about to start ducking them. I’m about to stop hanging around these guys and just hang out with my family.

“They asked me for my room number. I told them I didn’t know. I told them I’ll let them know later.”

– Aron Angel

Scam Newton? NFC might or might not have a secret weapon

Cam Newton muffed his only punt-return attempt Thursday, then scooped it up and looked to break some tackles. (Perry Knotts/NFL)

HONOLULU — When Cam Newton goes long to catch a deep pass in Sunday’s Pro Bowl, remember where you heard it first.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The Panthers’ rookie QB was hamming it up with the military personnel on hand for Thursday’s practice at Hickam Air Force Base and was the star of the show.

Newton was sent out to return an Andy Lee punt, which he proceeded to drop, much to the dismay of the hundreds looking on. Newton later closed the practice by lining up wide and catching a nicely thrown ball, about 50 yards down the sideline, from Aaron Rodgers.

“Did you see that?” Packers WR Greg Jennings said afterward. “He looks really fluid and natural. It’s kind of scary.”

But Jennings doesn’t intend to lose “valuable” practice time to Newton.

“As a receiver, we’re the prima donnas,” Jennings said. “Cam, you can’t take reps from us. But there might be something that we can throw out there.”

Is Jennings forecasting a secret weapon?

“We’ll see,” he warned.

– Aron Angel

Hawaii’s ‘soul surfer’ has a thing for Tebow

HONOLULU — You can’t escape Tim Tebow. Not even at the Pro Bowl, where the Broncos QB wasn’t even invited.

No, Tebow didn’t make a surprise appearance here in Oahu (unless the NFL has some plan we’re not aware of). But last night’s NFL-sponsored Luau at the Marriott Ihilani included some Tebow Time.

The league went with a surfing theme, bringing a number of current and legendary professional surfers on stage to discuss their craft, including 21-year-old “Soul Surfer” Bethany Hamilton.

Hamilton, best known for her work as a professional surfer in the wake of a shark attack that took her entire left arm, told last night’s crowd of Pro Bowlers and their families that she has a little crush on, you guessed it, Tebow.

Hamilton was bummed to find out Tebow wouldn’t be here this week.

“I’m hoping someone here can help me get in touch with him,” she noted.

No word on if she was successful in her quest.

– Aron Angel

Pro Bowl QBs always in search of the next ring

Only two active players have more than one Super Bowl ring. Tom Brady has three, and Ben Roethlisberger owns a pair. A Giants win in Super Bowl XLVI would give Eli Manning his second.

With a handful of past Super Bowl winners in Hawaii, NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington caught up with a few quarterbacks to talk about their quest for the next one.

“Once you get there, there’s this little bit of a sigh of relief,” Saints QB Drew Brees said. “We won. We did it. But then, it’s right back to focusing on how to get back for another.”

Watch: Rivers miked up


Go inside the AFC’s Wednesday practice, where Chargers QB Philip Rivers was miked for sound.

What’s it like practicing with a whole different group of players?

“We all run the same plays,” Rivers says. “We just call it different.”

True to the Pro Bowl, the AFC closes out practice with “Relax on 3. 1, 2, 3 … Relax!”

Players permitted to tweet during Pro Bowl

The NFL said Wednesday it will set up a computer on each sideline for the Pro Bowl, where players will be encouraged to use Twitter to communicate with fans, teammates and even opponents during commercial breaks and when their offensive or defensive unit isn’t on the field.

Panthers WR Smith flies teammates to Hawaii

HONOLULU — The Pro Bowl can be a lonely place for a rookie, as evidenced by Jeff Darlington‘s observation on Cam Newton dining by himself last night.

But if Newton is looking for dinner company, he needs to look no further than his own offensive teammates.

Wide receiver Steve Smith and center Ryan Kalil are both here, and to make things even better, Smith brought the rest of the Panthers’ receiving corps with him to Hawaii.

“I wouldn’t be here without those guys,” Smith said after Wednesday’s practice, “So I just wanted to do something nice for them, bring them out here and show them Hawaii.”

A classy move, no doubt, by Smith, who actually was able to save the cost of one plane ticket on Panthers rookie Kealoha Pilares, who’s from the island and lives here during the offseson.

Smith said he and his teammates plan to use Pilares’ knowledge of the local terrain to their advantage.

“Us guys, we get to experience his culture,” Smith said. “We’re mainlanders, as he calls us, so we get to show him around the mainland. Now it’s his turn to show us around his island.

“We knew he was already going to be here. Today or tomorrow, we’re going to go to the North Shore and just experience — not the touristy spots — but this beautiful place and see the parts that if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t find them.”

– Aron Angel

Jackson: No word from Chargers on new deal

HONOLULU — A little business in between the fun here in Hawaii …

Vincent Jackson is all smiles Wednesday during Pro Bowl practice. (Marco Garcia/Associated Press)

While reports suggest A.J. Smith now is “comfortable” exploring a long-term deal for Vincent Jackson, the Chargers wide receiver said he has yet to speak to the general manager himself.

“There hasn’t been any communication as far as contracts go,” Jackson said after Wednesday’s Pro Bowl practice. “If that’s their feeling, that’s great. I would like to stay in San Diego. Obviously, that’s my home, that’s where I was drafted. I’ve got some good guys around me -– Philip Rivers (Antonio) Gates, Ryan Mathews. It would be a great place for me to stay, so we’ll see if that works out.”

Jackson, who earned $11.4 million this past season as the team’s franchise player, said he’d prefer to avoid the tag again.

“That’s something that’s out of my control,” he said. “I can’t concern myself with how that goes. I’d love to have a long-term deal, just to have security of where you’re going to be for a while. That’s a decision that they have to make.”

In the meantime, Jackson, like everyone else, is just happy to be in Hawaii.

“This is beautiful,” he said. “It makes California seem like Colorado right now.”

– Aron Angel

Cross-Bay rivalry makes this Pro Bowl a ‘special’ one

HONOLULU — 49ers punter Andy Lee put it best when he said, “There must be something in the water” in the Bay Area.

San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers (left) and punter Andy Lee during practice. (Perry Knotts/NFL)

That’s the only explanation as to why, for likely the first time ever, the kicking units for the NFC and AFC each come from two teams from one area: 49ers and Raiders.

Lee is here with 49ers kicker David Akers and long snapper Brian Jennings.

“It’s awesome to be here with my guys and to have my long snapper here,” Lee said. “For Dave to have his long snapper here, so it’s his rhythm that he’s been used to all season, it’s a really unique thing to share this with those guys that you spent all season with.”

Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, amazingly making his first Pro Bowl appearance in 12 seasons, is here with punter Shane Lechler and long snapper Jon Condo.

“It’s fun,” Lechler said. “We’re going to see if one of these golf courses can let us get a six-some out here because we’re going to go play, us against them, and put a little money on the line.”

Lee said he keeps up with his counterparts across the Bay, making this week’s experience even sweeter.

“I’m friends with them, Dave’s friends with them,” Lee said. “Of course, there’s competition in anything. You wouldn’t be playing this game if you didn’t want to be the best. Of course, there’s competition there, but it’s friendly competition.”

While offense and defense were on the field “banging helmets,” Lee spent the early part of Wednesday’s practice on the sideline with Akers and Jennings, playing catch with some kids. That led to the question: Is there a better gig than being a long snapper at the Pro Bowl.

“Yeah,” Lee said. “The punter.”

– Aron Angel

Woodson: Playoff success all about momentum

NFL Network’s Fran Charles and Tom Waddle caught up with Packers LB Clay Matthews and CB Charles Woodson on Wednesday to talk about the “consolation prize” of a Pro Bowl trip.

According to Woodson, the key to making it to the Super Bowl is peaking at the right time.

“I think the momentum aspect was the biggest change. Because we basically started our playoffs the last two games of the regular season,” Woodson said of the Packers’ championship run last year. “This season, we had everything wrapped up, had a little time off. We came in and played against a team that was hot, the way we were hot the year before.”

That team would be the Giants, who defeated the Packers 37-20 in the divisional round and have ridden their own momentum to the Super Bowl, trying to repeat Green Bay’s run from a year earlier.

Big Ben: Ankle swollen but all right

HONOLULU — Based on the way he was hobbling around during the Steelers’ playoff loss earlier this month, Ben Roethlisberger‘s appearance at this week’s Pro Bowl has to be considered some kind of bonus … for the fans. The Steelers might not be thrilled with the idea of their banged-up QB running around during an all-star game.

But Roethlisberger, who walked with a slight limp during Wednesday’s practice, swears he’s well enough to play.

“Not bad,” Roethlisberger said about his ankle. “Lots of time to rest. Still a little swollen, but it’s all right.”

No word on whether or not Mike Tomlin has put in a call to AFC coach Gary Kubiak about Roethlisberger’s playing time. But Big Ben didn’t seem concerned while forecasting what he expects to be a cameo appearance.

“We’ve rested it long enough now,” he said. “Coaches know. It’s not one of those games where I’m going to have to scramble away from people. It’ll hopefully be a quick in and out.”

Cut to Jared Allen nodding in agreement while taking a knee.

– Aron Angel

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