ORLANDO, Fla -- Some players thought it was because of prize money. Others thought it was a desire to give a better on-field product than in years past. It also was the thrill of being there for the first time. Whatever the motivating factor was, players felt that overall, there was more effort on the field for the Pro Bowl in 2018.
"I think it was because there were so many great fans out there and guys wanted to put on a good show and really get this Pro Bowl up to the standard that we wanted it to be at," said tight end Jason Witten, who played in his 11th Pro Bowl on Sunday.
It was particularly evident on defense, with Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson notching two interceptions and Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith recording a third, while the AFC registered three collective sacks from Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward and Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins thought Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander set the tone with a particularly hard hit, decleating Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle.
"We've only got one speed, and we were just out there playing hard, trying to win," Alexander said.
Atkins gave his assessment.
"Everybody was trying to test the waters to see what the speed level [was] and how everyone was going, and obviously, he set the tone," Atkins said of Alexander. "We were definitely playing a lot harder, especially in the second half, with money on the line and the juices started flowing. We're all competitors, and we all wanted to compete and win."
"At the end of the day, it's hard to play this game at any sort of a lower tempo than what you're used to," Jordan said. "Honestly, it's hard not to go hard, especially when you're going against some of the best players in our league. You almost want to go [full speed]. It takes so much to not go full speed, so I don't even try to fight it."
Members of the winning AFC squad each received $64,000, while players on the losing NFC team received $32,000.
"Everybody was playing pretty hard and trying to get a win. We didn't get a win though, so that was f---ed up," Bennett said. "Everybody had a good time though. It's always about having a good time with a bunch of good players. At the end of the day, that's what it's about."