'The Pro Bowl Games' reimagine NFL's all-star game by virtue of flag football

The NFL's annual showcase of its top stars is undergoing a transformation in 2023.

The Pro Bowl, an all-star game pitting the best from the AFC and NFC, will become "The Pro Bowl Games," the NFL announced Monday.

Gone is the traditional game played at the end of Pro Bowl week. A flag football game featuring the season's Pro Bowlers will take its place at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023.

The week will be about more than Sunday's game, with the addition of new challenges intended to showcase Pro Bowlers' football and non-football skills in unique competitions.

All of this is intended to create a fresh take on what had become quite stale. At its core, the purpose of the Pro Bowl is to show off the abilities of the best football players on the planet. But with the game comes a risk of injury, and the top athletes in today's game are understandably unwilling to give it their all in a game that matters for nothing but, well, bragging rights.

What the NFL received in recent years was a game played closer to half-speed than full-go, especially in the trenches. It instead became an arena for wacky plays and lots of laughs, but not in the most competitive style.

With this change, the league will attempt to again ignite the flame of competition with a lower-risk, but still highly entertaining new format.

"We've received invaluable feedback from players, teams and fans about reimagining the Pro Bowl, and as a result, we're thrilled to use The Pro Bowl Games as a platform to spotlight Flag football as an integral part of the sport's future while also introducing fun, new forms of competition and entertainment that will bring our players, their families and fans closer than ever before," Peter O'Reilly, NFL EVP of club business and league events, said in a statement. "Building on the success of the 2022 Pro Bowl and 2022 Draft, as well as our strong partnership with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Las Vegas Raiders, we look forward to bringing The 2023 Pro Bowl Games to the capital of world-class sports and entertainment."

The NFL found that fans very much enjoyed the skills competition that preceded the Pro Bowl, with stars partaking in events such as dodgeball, precision passing and best catch competitions, and races to determine the fastest man. It created content that was both entertaining in a live viewing setting, and in clips spread throughout social media platforms.

The inclusion of a flag football game follows this same line of thinking, hopefully returning a level of competition that is both enjoyable and legitimate -- without the risks associated with a full-speed, full-contact football game.

Flag football has also been a critical component of the NFL's participation and development strategy, "due to its highly accessible and inclusive qualities," according to the league's statement. Flag football will be visible throughout the week in Las Vegas, as the NFL aims to further the variation of the sport.

Fan voting, of course, will remain. The honors will be treated the same -- they'll just manifest in the form of flag football, not tackle football.

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