Four Ravens players have dropped out of the Pro Bowl, making the annual all-star affair less attractive to those Ravens fans who wish they had better plans Sunday afternoon. (Quarterback Joe Flacco withdrew from the annual MSP Polar Bear Plunge, too, but give the guy a break: He’s a newlywed and his wife is pregnant).
But besides passing up an opportunity to go to Hawaii, I can’t say I blame Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata for exercising their right to miss the game, whether their reasons are injury-related or personal.
The Pro Bowl is the worst all-star game of our four major pro sports leagues. With the many dropouts plus the players from the New England Patriots and the New York Giants who are out due to the Super Bowl, it feels as if half the players will be alternates Sunday. They might as well play flag football due to the lackadaisical tackling as players understandably don’t want to get hurt in an exhibition after banging bodies for 16 games.
The NHL’s all-star game is exciting for casual fans because without defense and checking, they actually get to see some goals. And in the NBA, the players don’t play defense until the playoffs anyway, so why not open it up? But football needs at least a little resistance from the defenses to keep fans interested.
I’m not sure how you can ask these players, who fought during the NFL lockout for fewer padded practices, to go out there and tee off on each other. Ray Lewis is hardwired to destroy all ball-carriers, but even he will take it easy Sunday.
Until the NFL finds a way to make the Pro Bowl a semi-serious game -- and really, I don’t see that happening any time soon -- I don’t blame star players not taking it seriously, either.