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37 players decline invitations to new-look Pro Bowl

The NFL has extended 125 invitations to fill 88 player spots in this weekend's Pro Bowl, an improvement from 133 last year but still the second-highest total in game history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The league has struggled in recent seasons to attract top players to its annual postseason showcase. Among other explanations, players have cited the health concerns of playing in a meaningless game.

Most recently, Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert suffered an ankle injury that required surgery in the 2015 Pro Bowl. Eifert didn't return to full health until Week 6 of the 2016 regular season.

"It was one of the best experiences I've ever had," Eifert said last month. "But it's just not worth it."

Last year's relatively star-less affair prompted another, and perhaps final, attempt from the NFL to enhance the event.

For starters, Sunday night's game (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) has been moved from Honolulu to Orlando, Florida, a location more convenient for many players. There will be a skills competition on Thursday night, including a dodgeball game, and the league has resurrected the AFC versus NFC format it used until 2012.

Players on the winning team will receive $61,000 and those on the losing team will be paid $30,000.

Ten players declined this year because they will play in Super Bowl LI with either the Patriots or Falcons.

In all, only 57 percent of the players on the original roster will be in uniform for the game. That includes just one of the six quarterbacks -- the Dallas Cowboys' Dak Prescott -- and three of the eight wide receivers.

Among the quarterbacks who will play Sunday is the Chargers' Philip Rivers, who led the NFL with 21 interceptions. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, whose 15 touchdown passes tied him for No. 27 in the NFL during the regular season, is also on the roster.

The initial rosters are determined via a vote from players, coaches and fans. Replacements are culled from a list of alternates arranged by vote total.

The average of 129 invitations over the past two seasons is 23 percentage points higher than the average of 105 per season from 1998 to 2014, according to Elias' records.