The best thing about the candid Pro Bowl comments of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers: They have generated substantive discussion about the Pro Bowl, its limitations and the extent to which players are responsible for making it a legitimate event.
If you missed it, Rodgers said Tuesday that some NFC players "embarrassed" themselves with a lack of effort in Sunday's game, a 59-41 victory by the AFC. Rodgers didn't back away while posting Tuesday night on Twitter, writing: "… [T]he fans paid money to watch the pro bowl in person. I know no one wants to get hurt but on a couple plays the effort level was really bad don't u think?? If u wanna rip me for that go ahead. I think those folks in attendance n watching on tv would agree."
Speaking during a Super Bowl media session in Indianapolis, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick seemed to bite his tongue when asked about Sunday's game. According to my NFC West colleague Mike Sando, Belichick said: "What I'm going to say wouldn't be probably what I should say." Belichick paused before adding: "What it was and what it is now is a lot different."
Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, meanwhile, says in the video that no one likes to see football played the way it was Sunday night.
"It's called professional football," Edwards said. "Not a hobby. People anticipate when you take the football field, they want to see competitive violence. Whether it's an all-star game, your first game, your last game, this is what you do. You're a professional football player."
But is that realistic given the risks of injury in an otherwise meaningless game? Patriots guard Logan Mankins told Sando that it will be hard to conjure substantially higher intensity in Pro Bowls moving forward.
Mankins: "You're going to give a little effort, but you're not going to get out of control. Some guys are free agents over there. You get hurt in a Pro Bowl and it's going to affect that contract with another team. Who would want to get hurt in a Pro Bowl and not be able to play the next season?"
Rodgers said Tuesday that "you're more likely to get an injury standing around a pile or just going through it half speed," but I'm not sure if all players will buy into that traditional theory. That's why I think, or maybe hope, that the NFL will take notice when one of its best and most respected speaks out about the situation. Hopefully NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be asked about it during his annual Super Bowl address Friday.
It's hard to play football at half speed, but it might not be realistic to expect pride alone to serve as a motivator. Maybe it's time for an entirely new event. Pro Bowl Fear Factor, anyone?