The mad scramble for Pro Bowl replacements has begun with countless players opting out for various reasons including Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who declined his invite to Vegas, citing an elbow injury that plagued him throughout the second half of the season. Allen bowing out of what amounts to a meaningless exhibition is understandable, prioritizing rest and recovery after a grueling 17-game regular season slate followed by a playoff run that ended with the Bills’ recent loss to Cincinnati in the AFC Divisional Round. But if Allen were truly hurt, would he be golfing in this week’s AT&T Celebrity Pro-Am?
It takes serious cojones to blow off the Pro Bowl for a round at Pebble Beach, though, unfortunately, this flagrant disregard for the sanctity of football’s annual All-Star game has become the prevailing sentiment. In fact, many are ready to put the Pro Bowl out to pasture, lamenting the demise of a once-prominent event on the NFL calendar, a dying tradition that has recently resorted to cheap gimmicks, desperately trying to keep the flame alive with a skills competition and, for the first time, a flag football tournament substituting for an actual game.
In demonstrating what a laughable charade the Pro Bowl has become, Allen’s replacement, Ravens backup Ty Huntley, appeared in all of six games this season, contributing two touchdowns and three interceptions over that span. Huntley didn’t do much to earn his spot in Vegas, though he fit arguably the most important criteria—unlike Allen and other Pro Bowl dropouts, he was actually available. Soon-to-be ex-Raider Derek Carr was also named to the AFC roster as a stand-in for Patrick Mahomes (currently occupied with his Super Bowl preparations), making for an excruciatingly awkward sendoff, returning to Allegiant Stadium weeks after saying his farewells on social media.
Allen’s golf hobby is well-documented. He played at last summer’s American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe and has also competed in TNT’s “Match” series. But if the NFL can’t get its own players to care about the Pro Bowl, eschewing the game for celebrity golf tournaments and other events of even lesser consequence, how can they expect fans to treat it as anything more than background noise?
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