HONOLULU – Adrian Peterson signed and tossed miniature footballs into the Aloha Stadium stands, then chatted up Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen. Arian Foster played Peyton Mannings bodyguard for stadium cameras and told fans he recently walked on hot lava.
The Pro Bowl players practiced a little, too, on a sunny Saturday in Honolulu one day before an all-star game that will likely be used to determine its own future.
But the games main purpose is fun, said several players including Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph, a former Notre Dame standout, and Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles.
I feel like theres no responsibility, its just all about fun, Charles said. You work hard during the year – its not like a competitive game.
Competition – or at least the appearance of it – is exactly what the NFL is looking for from its stars today as it uses the game as a measurement of whether its worth putting on in future years. Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the game will stop if play doesnt improve, drawing mixed reactions from top players all over the league.
Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman says he doesnt want this years Pro Bowl players to be known as the group who led to the games cancellation, taking away an honor and privilege for future players.
I dont want this to happen on my watch, he said.
Rudolph said the players natural competitiveness will help make the game entertaining.
Its a game we want to win, so itll be fun, Rudolph said.
The game should see plenty of scoring, thanks to limits on blitzing and defensive schemes. Bookmakers in Las Vegas expect a combined 81 1/2 points scored, with the AFC squad slightly favored. The NFC and AFC have won five Pro Bowls each in the last 10 meetings.
Houston tight end Owen Daniels says fans wont see many big hits.
Youre not going to see people play dirty or giving it up like a playoff game, but thats just the way it is, Daniels said. I think youve got to accept that and know that we love being out here, and I think youve got to know that the people here love having us out here.