Who wants to play in the Pro Bowl?

The Pro Bowl has gone from a game featuring the best of the best to a game for the better than most. Because the game is being played a week before the Super Bowl in the same venue, multiple changes have been made to the AFC and NFC rosters to account for players from the Colts and Saints not being available and the usual slew of “medically excused” players. At last count, there are 29 players excused from the event due to the Super Bowl or medical excuses.

Here are some questions I’ve received the past week about the Pro Bowl:

What do players make for the Pro Bowl?

Each player on the winning team gets $45,000; each player on the losing team gets $22,500.

Do players who can’t participate because their teams are in the Super Bowl still get these shares?

Yes, with a qualification. Word from the NFL is that players from the Colts and Saints who are selected to play in the game will get their Pro Bowl winner's or loser's checks if they come to South Florida and participate in certain game-day activities such as pregame introductions and media interviews.

The Colts players will apparently fly to Miami in advance of their team, do their required obligations and leave at halftime to fly back to Indianapolis – then fly back to Miami on Monday. Seems like overkill, but this was all contemplated well in advance of the week-before-the-Super-Bowl plan.

What if they don’t participate in introductions and media interviews?

Presumably, they would not get their money.

What about Pro Bowl bonuses for all of the players added to the game?

The typical language for the bonus has been something like:

“Player will receive a bonus in the amount of --- in the event he is named as a Starter or Back-up on the initial Pro Bowl Ballot and participates in the Pro Bowl game following the regular season, unless medically excused.”

This language would not qualify the many replacements being named since they were not named on the original Pro Bowl ballot and therefore are not eligible to receive their bonuses.

What about Pro Bowl bonuses for Super Bowl players sitting out?

They’ll receive their bonuses since their participation in the Pro Bowl has been preempted by the league decision to move the game rather than by any actions of their own. Were they not to receive these bonuses, there would be a revolt.

Teams have begun adjusting Pro Bowl bonus language, with clauses like the one above extended to read: “…unless medically excused or Player is excused due to the Club’s participation in the Super Bowl.”

With uncertainty about the Pro Bowl being played before or after the Super Bowl, time will tell if this year’s trial event becomes a staple of the postseason.

What about all these “medically excused” players; are these real injuries or just ways to get out of going to the game?

I’ll let you answer that one. After a long season and sometimes bitter losses in the playoffs, the last thing some players want is to play in another game, even if the rules are softer. Thus, these players are “excused” from playing with certification from the team doctors and trainers that they can’t participate.

As to the veracity of the “certifications,” as someone who was involved in too many such medical excuses for one Brett Favre (who just got another one), I plead the fifth.

Of course, as per the language above, players who are medically excused still earn their Pro Bowl bonuses.

Although there were certainly some cost savings in not going to Hawaii this year, there are more bonuses than ever regarding the Pro Bowl. It will be the most player-expensive Pro Bowl ever.

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