Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice may have just saved the Pro Bowl this season. The NFL’s decision to do away with the conference format and allow two captains to draft their teams seems to have jarred some interest in the event. Players, coaches and fans had no idea who was going to be suiting up for either team until the draft concluded Wednesday night.
Sanders and Rice also may have hurt a few egos in the process, as NFL players are known to be some of the more prideful athletes in sports. I’m looking at you, Richard Sherman. There were quite a few guys who were honored to be a part of the festivities, but none were too excited about having to wait two hours to hear their name called. A few of those guys happened to be Chicago Bears.
In particular, Brandon Marshall was less than thrilled with his draft spot. After being drafted to Team Rice with the second pick of the 16th round (32nd overall selection), Marshall had some choice words for Sanders and his defensive back selections.
“You couldn’t guard me. And those DB’s you picked, they’re not going to be able to guard me.” Marshall meant ever word of it.
Mind the fact that this statement was directed at Sanders, one of the greatest lockdown DBs in NFL history. Whether Sanders would be able to shut down Marshall, that’s a debate we will only be able to play out in our minds since “Primetime” is starting to show some gray in his beard. His DB’s are in for a rough night on Sunday though. That includes Marshall’s Bear teammate Tim Jennings, who was not in Hawaii when he was assigned to Team Sanders.
Marshall’s comments may have been directed at Sanders and the defensive players he drafted, but the people who should be on notice are the receivers who were selected before him. Five other WRs had their names called prior to Marshall — Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffrey and Antonio Brown. It’s an elite group of the NFL’s top pass catchers that will be taking the field on Sunday, and you can bet your top dollar that Marshall believes he is the top dog of them all.
Similarly, Matt Forte would’ve wished his name was called a bit sooner in the draft. Rather than trash talk Sanders for passing on him round after round, he simply lobbied for either coach to select him very soon in the confessional booth. Forte ended up being drafted with the second pick of the 19th round (38th overall selection) by Team Rice.
The chip on Forte’s shoulder could come from the fact that he was selected after rookie RB Eddie Lacy. In case you were wondering, Lacy is the starting running back for the Green Bay Packers. The Bears and Packers have the longest, fiercest divisional rivalry in the entire league. Watching your rival, who ended your playoff hopes in Week 17, walk up to the stage before you has to make a small puddle of your blood boil, even if it’s only the Pro Bowl.
Forte could use Sunday as a showcase to prove he is the better running back of the two. Whoever shows their dominance will still have to settle for second best in the NFC North though. That top spot still belongs to Adrian Peterson until further notice.
Sunday might be shaping up to be one of the most competitive Pro Bowls in quite some time. Then again, anything will look better than the 2012 game where both conference teams were booed for poor effort and uneventful play.