Friday, November 24, 2017
Sports

Is it just enough of a game to keep playing?

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HONOLULU — Adrian Peterson signed and tossed miniature footballs into the Aloha Stadium stands, then chatted up Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen. Arian Foster played Peyton Manning's bodyguard for stadium cameras and told fans he recently walked on hot lava.

The Pro Bowl players practiced a little, too, on a sunny Saturday in Honolulu one day before an all-star game that likely will be used to determine its future.

But the game's main purpose is fun, said several players, including Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

"I feel like there's no responsibility; it's just all about fun," Charles said. "You work hard during the year. It's not like a competitive game."

Competition — or at least the appearance of it — is exactly what the NFL seeks as it uses today's game to measure whether the Pro Bowl is worth playing in future years. Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the game will stop if play doesn't improve, drawing mixed reactions from top players.

Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman says he doesn't want this year's Pro Bowl players to be the group that led to the game's end, taking away an honor and privilege for future players.

"I don't want this to happen on my watch," he said.

Rudolph said the players' natural competitiveness will help make the game entertaining.

"It's a game we want to win, so it'll be fun," Rudolph said.

The game should see plenty of scoring, thanks to limits on blitzing and defensive schemes. Bookmakers in Las Vegas expect a combined 811/2 points, with the AFC squad slightly favored (by 1). The NFC and AFC have split the past 10 meetings.

Peterson said moments like his chat with two NFL greats are what make the trip worthwhile for him.

"It's the best part," he said. "It's a bonus, man."

Charles said he's enjoyed watching the leadership of other Pro Bowl players as he has taken on a bigger leadership role with the Chiefs.

"I'm just trying to keep grinding and working hard," he said. "Trying to be where I'm at right now — trying to get back here next year."

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