Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Format not lone Pro Bowl wrinkle

HONOLULU — Pro Bowl players practicing one last time Saturday before the schoolyard pickup all-star game dropped hints they'll use some trickery to get an edge today.

On one play, Browns center Alex Mack streaked into the end zone at Aloha Stadium, not fast enough to catch a pass targeted his way.

Indianapolis long snapper Matt Overton busted out a behind-the-back snap — a spiraling line drive caught by Rams punter Johnny Hekker about 10 yards away, in a slot receiver's spot.

Mack says the potential catch wasn't meant for him. He describes it as a "last case scenario" for the team picked by NFL great Deion Sanders for tonight's game (7:30, Ch. 8).

"It's super top-secret — I can't talk about it," Mack said.

Jerry Rice's team later finished practice by huddling up and shouting "Get money," a reference to the five-figure pay bonus winners get in the game.

"The worst pressure I'm getting is from the other team: 'Hey, let's take it easy on each other,' " Miami defensive end Cameron Wake told fans. "But they got another thing coming."

Ray Anderson, the NFL's outgoing executive vice president of football operations, said he hopes that up-tempo practices, talk and encouragement from Sanders, Rice and coaches will lead to a better game than in past seasons.

"Certainly there's some competitive talking going back and forth," he said.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles offered to line up at wide receiver. On Saturday, Drew Brees ran one play that looked a lot like an option, pitching the ball to Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. On another play, Larry Fitzgerald ran a sweep right.

"Anytime you play for the probably the greatest player to ever put on cleats, it's a good thing," said Fitzgerald, who was assigned to Rice's team after the other seven receivers were picked beforehand.

Anderson said he thinks the game will be improved in part because players suggested the change that models the game partly after fantasy football.

"There's always a certain amount of pride that comes along with being a captain and also picking sides. You want to win," said Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who still took time to sign dozens of autographs and take selfie photographs with children in the crowd. "We didn't get here by not being competitive, so we're always trying to win everything we do."

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