The NFL is once again changing up the Pro Bowl, including the overall format of the annual NFL All-Star game.
The 2017 Pro Bowl will feature a return to the traditional AFC vs NFC game format following three years using a revised, "unconferenced" format. The two teams will include 88 players – 44 from the AFC and 44 from the NFC – are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches.
This is the first time since 2012 that the NFL is using their traditional Pro Bowl format after a three-year experiment with the unconferenced setup, which had NFL legends like Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice drafting from pools of Pro Bowl eligible players.
Last year, that included several Cincinnati Bengals, including offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, wide receiver A.J. Green, safety Reggie Nelson and tight end Tyler Eifert. The game also happened to be where Eifert suffered an ankle injury that led to an eventual surgical procedure, which may affect his availability for the start of the 2016 NFL season.
The next Pro Bowl game will be at Camping World Stadium in Orlando – on Sunday, January 29 and televised live at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and the Watch ESPN app. Pro Bowl practices will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort simultaneously with youth football events and a fan fest. The Dolphins will actually be playing their third preseason game at Camping World Stadium, which will offer a view of what the Pro Bowl will look like.
The highlights of the new Pro Bowl Week include:
- Pro Bowl AFC and NFC practices will be held alongside youth football competitions, activities and fan events at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort, which annually hosts more than 100 youth sports events, such as the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
- The 2017 Pro Bowl players will also be able to invite their former youth or high school coach to be a part of the celebrations during the week. Players on the winning Pro Bowl team will receive a grant from the NFL Foundation to support their youth or high school football program.
- The annual USA Football National Conference will take place during the week leading up to the Pro Bowl. USA Football, the sport's national governing body and a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, leads the largest annual conference of high school and youth football administrators and high school coaches in the United States. More than 650 participants from all 50 states attended USA Football's 2016 National Conference in Indianapolis, addressing coach education, player safety and key trends through inspiring speakers representing youth, high school, collegiate and pro levels.
- The Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award winner will be announced during the Pro Bowl as part of a year-long recognition of high school coaches on ESPN. The award honors high school football coaches that display the integrity, achievement, and leadership exemplified by Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA, the winningest coach in NFL history.
- Pro Bowl festivities for youth and their families will take place throughout the week across Orlando, including a Pro Bowl-themed 5k run and a parade of Pro Bowl players in the Magic Kingdom.