With the help of the Bucs, Pro Bowl effort much improved
Fact: The 2012 Pro Bowl was embarrassing for all involved. Effort was nonexistent and players made a mockery of a game intended to showcase the best the NFL had to offer. As a result, the game was anything but that.
Fast forward a year to Sunday’s all-star affair and, frankly, I was pleasantly surprised. The effort was better. Players seemed to take commissioner Roger Goodell’s threats to eliminate the game seriously. And fans were the ultimate winners.
Look, this is the Pro Bowl, not something that is vital to the existence of football. But players like the reward of having a trip to Hawaii and the honor of being selected as one of the best by their peers. After a grueling 16-game season, that’s a nice carrot.
And it was all potentially going to go to the wayside after the debacle of 2012. This year, with Bucs stars Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin and Gerald McCoy playing major roles, the players stepped it up.
Most notable was the difference in play among linemen, who mixed it up more than you might have expected. They certainly were more engaged than in the past. Last year, it had become a matter of the ball being snapped and offensive and defensive linemen practically playing patty-cake.
There are some who will say the effort level in the game was still lacking, but that’s a bit unfair. You can’t reasonably expect players to put their bodies on the line by playing recklessly in a game that means nothing. Does anyone slide spikes up into the shortstop in baseball’s all-star game? Do NBA players, you know, play defense in their all-star game?
The answer on both counts is absolutely not. Still, both those games are widely celebrated as worthy events.
As for the Bucs involved in the Pro Bowl, it was a good experience for all. Jackson caught six passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Martin caught three passes for 40 yards, including a touchdown. And McCoy recovered a fumble recovery and registered a tackle for loss.
They represented their team well, and don’t be surprised if you see that trio in Honolulu again in the future.
And based on the improved showing by all players in Sunday’s Pro Bowl, they might actually get the chance to come back.