Allen and the art of going half speed

HONOLULU — Let’s be honest: Nobody comes to the Pro Bowl trying to win a parking spot as the best practice player of the week.

As such, Vikings DE Jared Allen, who only knows one speed during the regular season, says slowing things down during Pro Bowl week is an art form he has perfected over the years.

“You don’t want to be the guy that’s the jerk, out-hustling everybody else,” Allen said Wednesday, following the NFC’s first practice of the week.

Allen said the same rule applies for Sunday’s game.

“You kind of play it by ear,” he said. “If one of their offensive players decides he wants to ramp it up, you’ve got to ramp it up. If you’re behind, you might have to ramp it up.”

But Allen also acknowledged that everyone is well aware that the winning team receives a bigger paycheck at the end of the day, noting, “They keep raising the prize money, so eventually it’s like a game check.”

To that end, Allen said the action usually becomes more intense as the game progresses

“If their defense decides to go crazy, we have to look out for our offense,” Allen said. “So it’s kind of like everybody’s playing a chess match to see who’s going to strike first … and then it’s on.”

Allen is one of the NFL’s biggest characters. We’ll surely have more from him as the week goes on, staring with some exclusive miked-up material from Wednesday’s practice session, complete with helmet cam and all.

The always self-deprecating Allen had this to say while letting some of his teammates know his practice antics would be featured on NFL Network: “The NFL is going to lose ratings with me miked up.”

Players unanimous: Keep Pro Bowl in Hawaii

HONOLULU — Speaking Tuesday at the Pro Bowl news conference, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the state “will do everything we can” to keep the NFL’s all-star game, a notion heavily supported by players on hand.

“This is a unique place to get away,” Chargers WR Vincent Jackson said. “It’s still the U.S., but you kind of feel like you’re in a foreign country. They obviously do a great job with the accommodations out here. It’s great for the family, so I hope they keep it out here.”

Vikings DE Jared Allen is on his fourth Pro Bowl roster, including two years ago when the NFL stopped a 30-year run in Hawaii and decided to experiment with holding the game in Miami.

“When it was in Miami, it was kind of just like, eh, we’re in Florida,” Allen said. “So coming across, everybody’s on vacation, more relaxed, less stressful. It’s really family oriented over here, which is cool. It’s kind of like your reward for success instead of going to a city that you got to all the time.”

Panthers WR Steve Smith suggested he wouldn’t even be here if the game wasn’t held in Hawaii, and Allen couldn’t agree more.

“That’s a lot of players’ attitude, I think. If it’s in an NFL city, you’re in those cities quite often,” Allen said. “I found in Miami, you’re at the hotel signing autographs 99 percent of the time. It was just kind of chaotic, guys weren’t showing up, you had a lot of alternates in and out. Over here, it’s kind of what everybody looks forward to. Even if you had a crappy season, ‘I made it to Hawaii.’ I like it. It’s been a tradition. They started it here, they should keep it here.”

It almost seems wrong that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champion, is here for just the second time in eight seasons, the last time coming after the 2007 season.

“I think it should stay here,” Roethlisberger said. “I think guys like coming here and getting a little vacation. You know, you get a paid vacation. That’s what this is. It’s an opportunity, and guys should be rewarded for their work during the season.”

– Aron Angel

It takes all kinds

Pro Bowl players come in all shapes and sizes (the hot topic around here is just how big Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton is in person).

NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington takes a look at the different mix of personalities participating in this year’s game, as evidenced by the three QBs on the NFC’s roster.

“From the unacquainted rookie (Newton) to the young star (Aaron Rodgers) to the veteran family man (Drew Brees), it didn’t take much Tuesday to recognize how different life currently is for each of the NFC’s three Pro Bowl quarterbacks in Hawaii this week,” Darlington writes.

Rodgers arrives … with Zach Galifianakis?

(Perry Knotts/NFL)

HONOLULU — Players and coaches descended on the Marriott Ihilani on Tuesday afternoon, all more than happy to have arrived safe and sound in paradise.

You can check out a photo gallery of Tuesday’s player arrivals, the highlight of which was Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and his entourage. I’m still trying to get confirmation on whether or not the person pictured above, trailing Rodgers, is actor Zach Galifianakis.

Players and coaches all have meetings tonight, followed by their first walkthrough.

Judging by the scene at the pool bar, alcohol will be a factor. But that’s all part of the game plan here (well, not the actual game plan). Lei’d back (see what I did there?) and relaxed is the way most are playing it, with those who left their children at home happy to enjoy some down time after the stress of a long season.

The other category includes the likes of Saints QB Drew Brees, making the rounds at the pool with his young son, who by the looks of it, just learned to walk.

Practices start tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. We’ll surely have more from there.

– Aron Angel

Photo gallery: Pro Bowl cheerleaders

Aaaah, the Pro Bowl, where the NFL’s best and the brightest all are on display in one place.

But that’s not limited to players and coaches. The league’s best cheerleaders also are selected to roam the sidelines of Sunday’s all-star game.

For your viewing pleasure, we’ve put together a photo gallery of 25 of the league’s finest cheerleaders on hand in Honolulu.

Just don’t ask us what criteria is used to select these sideline sensations.

Enjoy.

Packers presence already felt at Pro Bowl

HONOLULU — As players and coaches began to arrive for the Pro Bowl on Monday, it became immediately clear that we’ll be seeing a major Packers presence throughout the week. And not just because Clay Matthews owned the pool for much of the day.

Green Bay’s coaching staff has been tabbed to coach the NFC squad, and most (if not all) of the team’s seven players are expected to attend.

Matthews and Greg Jennings already are here, and Aaron Rodgers is expected to arrive Tuesday.

“It’s not what we had planned, but we’ll take it,” Matthews said poolside Monday.

No, the Packers didn’t make the Super Bowl –- a big disappointment. But it’s nice to see them quickly overcoming any bitterness to make the most out of an honorable week in Hawaii.

This actually is Matthews’ first time getting to come to Oahu. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his other two seasons, but his first Pro Bowl took place in South Florida, and he was preparing for the Super Bowl in his second.

The other Packers named to this year’s Pro Bowl are FB John Kuhn, NT B.J. Raji, center Scott Wells and CB Charles Woodson.

– Jeff Darlington

Poolside in paradise

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews gets into the swing of things at the Marriott Ihilani. (Perry Knotts/NFL)

HONOLULU — Welcome to paradise.

Pro Bowl week officially is under way, as evidenced by the trickle of players already finding their way to the Marriott Ihilani on Monday afternoon.

Matthews gives Honolulu two thumbs up. (Perry Knotts/NFL)

Packers LB Clay Matthews was first in the water, immediately picking up an intense game of cross-pool catch with a group of kids, some of whom appeared to belong to the ever-present Matthews clan — basically the NFL’s version of royalty.

That’s clearly what this week is all about for the players here — family, fun and relaxation.

A couple of guys who are way better with a camera than me — NFL.com video editor David Benhaim and Perry Knotts, our photographer on hand — were snapping a few shots poolside, piquing the interest of Von Miller. Apparently the Broncos rookie is a bit of a photo enthusiast, chatting up Benhaim on his new Canon 5D (is that a good camera?).

Behind the scenes, a crew of league employees is working around the clock — yes, some people actually are working here — to make sure everything goes smoothly and everyone gets to where they need to go (hint: They’re all going to Honolulu). This is where the ever-changing Pro Bowl rosters essentially are formed. Over my left shoulder, someone is booking Frank Gore‘s travel as I type this. I spotted Packers WR Greg Jennings in the lobby.

That’s literally all the “news” that’s fit to print for now. Keep it here, as well as our Pro Bowl page, all week as we do our best to bring you the sites and sounds of the NFL’s (almost) annual takeover of Honolulu.

Plenty more players should be arriving Tuesday. Then practices start Wednesday, where I’ll be riding shotgun with NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington, catching up with various players. Until then, aloha.

– Aron Angel

Pro Bowl not your typical game, as expected

HONOLULU — After the NFC beat the AFC, 55-41, in Sunday’s Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium, Browns center Alex Mack was the last player still doing postgame interviews on the field.

If only you could see the twinkle in his eye.

It didn’t matter to Mack that his team got lambasted (NFC led, 42-0, in the second quarter at one point), he was soaking in his moment of glory with reporters. That Mack took it to the house for the final touchdown with 16 seconds left on a 67-yard pass play that featured two laterals was a fitting conclusion to a strange game.

Consider some of the other weirdness that happened during the game:

» The AFC committed six turnovers, five of them interceptions between Phillip Rivers (two), Matt Cassel (two) and Peyton Manning (one).

» Titans return man Marc Mariani, who returned nine kickoffs for a Pro Bowl-record326 yards (you read that right), got booed for kneeling down in the end zone.

» A lazy reverse attempt on a kickoff between Bears return man Devin Hester and Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall, the game’s MVP, resulted in an 8-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Jaguars fullback Montell Owens.

» Patriots receiver Wes Welker ran a go-route (that failed, mind you). How many times have you seen Bill Belichick call a go-route for Welker during the regular season?

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s supposed to be this way. But for the hardcore football fan, the blunders and general sloppiness might be hard to accept because most of this stuff wouldn’t happen in “a real game” (Who wants to see the offensive and defensive lines dancing with each other all day long?).

Then again, it is the Pro Bowl. It’s kind of funny to watch, definitely entertaining. And it does make for a high-scoring game, which is just what you’d expect from the Pro Bowl.

Hawaiian fans show Vick aloha spirit

HONOLULU — One of the things I wondered about in the moments leading up to kickoff was, how would Michael Vick be received by the fans here at the Pro Bowl? Well, if the ovation during his introduction is any indication, they love him.

Vick no doubt received the loudest ovation of all the players introduced — louder than the uber-popular Peyton Manning, if you could believe that. Even the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader received a mixture of boos when she was introduced, for crying out loud.

Maybe it’s because the aloha spirit is alive and well on the island. Even so, the ovation for Vick is yet another testament to how far this guy has come in the last few years. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised by this, considering he did receive the second most fan votes behind Tom Brady. But, still, that’s pretty incredible that the reaction wasn’t even at all mixed, all things considered.

Clearly, people love a comeback story, even if the reason for it is self-imposed.

Final thoughts on the eve of Pro Bowl

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.

Gone fishin’ with Revis, Orakpo, Megatron

Watch what happened this week in Hawaii when Darrelle Revis, Brian Orakpo and Calvin Johnson tried their hands at a little deep-sea fishing. Did anybody have any luck?

Player correspondent Chris Cooley has the full report.

Keeping it Cooley at Ohana Day

NFL Network player correspondent Chris Cooley wandered around practice at Ohana Day at Aloha Stadium to dig up the good stuff from the players on the eve of the Pro Bowl.

Among the stories Cooley tackled: Is Titans return man Marc Mariani really Peyton Manning’s son?

Wake heaves one into the crowd

(Simon Samano/NFL)

Dolphins OLB Cameron Wake signed that football in his hands, then launched it into the crowd during Ohana Day at Aloha Stadium. He actually has a pretty good arm. Ball flew about 30 rows.

Bowe knows how to dance?

(Simon Samano/NFL)

Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (right) did his best Chris Johnson touchdown-celebration dance in front of the Titans RB himself and Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles at Ohana Day. I can neither confirm nor deny that it was good.

Ohana day gets under way

(Simon Samano/NFL)

Powered by WordPress.com VIP | Subscribe (RSS)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,198 other followers