Practices during Pro Bowl week tend to run for about an hour, only briefly interrupting the golf, beach or sightseeing plans of the NFL all-stars.
But come game time Sunday, things get more serious, Barry Sanders said.
“The intensity during practices isn’t the same as preparing for a regular game,” said the Detroit Lions’ running back, who has made the Pro Bowl each of his nine NFL seasons.
“But at this level, when the game starts, I don’t think any of us want to be outdone. You want to do what you did to get here.”
San Francisco’s Steve Mariucci, the NFC coach, said the all-stars pick things up in a hurry.
“You give them a playbook, and you try to get things done in practice so you can function on game day and let them show what they can do,” Mariucci said.
“But the practices are short and sweet. We practice early, and by the time we finish, they still have most of the day to play golf or whatever they want to do.”
This Pro Bowl signals a changing of the all-star guard, as 28 of the players will be appearing in the game for the first time.
The AFC will start six first-time selections: cornerback Aaron Glenn of the New York Jets, linebackers Chris Slade of New England, Joel Steed of Pittsburgh and Ted Washington of Buffalo, safety Darryl Williams of Seattle, and offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden of Baltimore.
Four Pro Bowl rookies are starters for the NFC: Green Bay running back Dorsey Levens, offensive lineman Todd Steussie of Minnesota, and New York Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead and defensive end Michael Strahan.
There are, of course, the all-star perennials such as the AFC’s Bruce Smith of Buffalo, making his 10th appearance, and Derrick Thomas of Kansas City, voted into the game for the ninth time. In addition to Sanders, NFC “oldtimers” include Randall McDaniel of Minnesota, in his ninth all-star game, and Chris Doleman of San Francisco, in his eighth.
Most of the NFL’s big names are on hand, including Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis of Denver, appearing for the second time. Missing, however, are the two Super Bowl quarterbacks, Denver’s John Elway and Green Bay’s Brett Favre.
They were scheduled to start the game, but withdrew because they face offseason surgery, Elway on his right shoulder and Favre on his left knee.
Seattle’s Warren Moon replaces Elway, and Atlanta’s Chris Chandler takes Favre’s spot on the NFC roster.
Jacksonville’s Mark Brunell, the MVP in the AFC’s 26-23 overtime win in the all-star game last year, is expected to start at quarterback. Brunell connected on an 80-yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown with 44 seconds left in regulation to force the overtime and finished 12 of 22 for 236 yards.
New England’s Drew Bledsoe is the other AFC quarterback. San Francisco’s Steve Young will open for the NFC, with Tampa Bay’s Trent Dilfer next in line.
Keeping with the changing of the guard, Dilfer is one of eight Buccaneers in the game, the most of any team. Among the other Tampa Bay all-stars are his backfield mates, running back Warrick Dunn, the only rookie on either roster, and fullback Mike Alstott.
The game at Aloha Stadium is a sellout for the 18th time in the 19 years it has been held in Hawaii. The only non-sellout was the game after the strike-shortened 1982 season.
xxxx TODAY ON TV Pro Bowl: AFC vs. NFC, 3 p.m., ABC.