ORLANDO – Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would rather prepare for the Super Bowl instead of the Pro Bowl. The same statement holds true for star running backs Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints and Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, or wide receivers Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings and Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers. The list goes on and on.
But nobody is complaining about the chance to play in the Pro Bowl on Sunday afternoon at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The NFC will square off against the AFC in the annual all-star showdown that typically favors touchdowns over tackles.
“It’s tough being out (of the postseason),” Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, a first-time Pro Bowl pick, said in comments published by the Chicago Tribune. “I did not expect it to come to an end, and how much fun we were having, you never want that to end.
“You wish you could still be playing, but you have to stay positive and pick the next best thing, and that’s coming to the Pro Bowl and going to the Super Bowl (as a guest) next week.”
Trubisky is one of more than two dozen players who were late substitutions to the Pro Bowl roster. Some are replacing injured players while others are taking the spots of Pro Bowlers from the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.
Mahomes is slated to start at quarterback for the AFC squad, with Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans backing him up. Luck replaced Philip Rivers of the Chargers, while Watson replaced the Patriots’ Tom Brady.
Meanwhile, the NFC’s quarterback tandem includes Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Dak Prescott of the Cowboys and Trubisky. All three are replacements: Wilson for Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers; Prescott for Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints; and Trubisky for Jared Goff of the Rams.
The players with the season’s top two rushing totals will be on display, with Elliott (1,434 yards on the ground) and New York Giants rookie Saquon Barkley (1,307) teaming up in the NFC backfield.
“(It’s) an honor and privilege to be out here with some of the best players at their job in the NFL,” Barkley told the Giants’ website. “Growing up watching some of these guys play and then to be able to play with them … is amazing.”
The Pro Bowl will feature a load of defensive talent, as well. Among the stars on display will be linebacker Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals.
Cowboys rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will line up alongside the Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner, one of his favorite players. Vander Esch also met Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher during Pro Bowl preparations this week.
“It’s a pretty crazy journey, huh,” Vander Esch told reporters. “I don’t know if I expected it to come this fast.
“I always expected myself to be in the shoes that I am now. One way or another, I knew I was going to get here.”
–Field Level Media