LAKE BUENA VISTA — A new twist leading up to the Pro Bowl in Orlando is a skills competition, which was taped Wednesday for showing at 7 tonight on ESPN, with Bucs DT Gerald McCoy and WR Mike Evans taking part in the made-for-TV event.
The competition has quarterbacks throwing passes through moving targets, receivers trying to catch a football dropped from drones hovering 100 feet overhead, and other unique events. Evans took part in a "best hands" challenge, catching passes from Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, going through a series of stations making two-handed catches, one-handed catches, toe-tap sideline catches, and over-the-shoulder catches.
McCoy was especially excited about a new "power relay" challenge, with linemen tasked with moving heavy objects along a course. He fondly remembered a similar event he watched as a fan back in the VCR days of his youth.
"I'm a little banged up, but I said 'Yeah, I'll do it!' " he said. "I remember when (Warren) Sapp was going against John Randle. I still literally have the VHS tape when I recorded it and Randle went up against Sapp. To have an opportunity to be able to say I've done the same thing. We have to lift this wall, then pull this box and push a sled and have a guy do a 40-yard dash. It's going to be fun. You have fun, you win, you lose, you have a good time."
Would McCoy take part in the "drone drop" competition?
"I will not be catching those," he said.
There's also a dodgeball competition, and McCoy said he would be careful: "Von Miller was a little too excited to play dodgeball, so I'm going to stay out of his way."
SAME TEAM: Two months ago, Evans got the best of CB Richard Sherman, catching two touchdown passes in the first quarter of the Bucs' 14-5 upset win at home against the Seahawks, but the two are now happy to be teammates in the Pro Bowl.
"Richard Sherman's my favorite defensive player, so it's cool to be talking with him, hanging out with him," Evans said after his first Pro Bowl practice. "To see all the guys, I respect everybody, and it's fun to see all these stars here. It doesn't seem real, but it's pretty cool."
Evans and Sherman talked briefly on the field after their game in November, but they are teammates this week as Sunday's Pro Bowl returns to its normal NFC versus AFC format. Sherman, one of the league's most physical cornerbacks, saw how physical Evans can be when they squared off this season, and he said he likes the game he has developed in his three seasons in the NFL.
"He's a good player, a big receiver who knows how to use his hands," Sherman said. "He catches the ball well. He does everything you would like a big guy like him to do. He had a great season and a great couple of seasons."
THIS AND THAT: Even for high-paid athletes, money can be a motivating factor. Evans, asked how hard he will go in Sunday's game, said, "I just realized it's double the money if you win, so I'm going hard." Each member of the winning team gets $64,000 this year, with losers getting $32,000. … The NFC is sporting blue and neon green uniforms for the game, while the AFC uniforms are red and yellow.
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Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.