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Why the NFL changed Pro Bowl to new flag football game format in 2023

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The Pro Bowl returns to Las Vegas this weekend, but the events won’t look much like they did last year. 

The weekend is now centered on a flag football game featuring some of the NFL’s biggest stars, but the league has made sure there is something for everyone this year.

Skills challenges will take place on Thursday and Sunday, with Sunday’s slate featuring challenges that highlight kickers, receivers, and speedsters. Thursday’s competitions include a dodgeball game, which rarely disappoints.

MORE: NFL Pro Bowl date, time, rosters & more to watch 2023 skills challenges, flag football game in Las Vegas

Here’s all you need to know about why the NFL has reconfigured the Pro Bowl for 2023.

Why did the NFL change the Pro Bowl format?

Peter Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club and league events, announced in September that the league decided to change the Pro Bowl format after receiving “invaluable feedback from players, teams and fans.”

Reilly said the league was “thrilled to use The Pro Bowl Games as a platform to spotlight flag football as an integral part of the sport’s future,” adding that the new format will bring players and fans closer together.

While the NFL presented the change as a smooth transition to a new era, the league faced declining interest in the previous Pro Bowl format.

The 2022 Pro Bowl averaged 6.69 million viewers — still an audience most would love to have, but not nearly up to the NFL’s standards.

MORE: Tyler Huntley’s Pro Bowl nod has NFL world calling for cancellation of event: ‘Time to be done with the Pro Bowl’

Fewer people watched the 2022 Pro Bowl than the 2021 MLB All-Star Game, and the 6.69 million mark was down dramatically from the 12.2 million who watched the Pro Bowl just nine years earlier in 2013. The 2022 Pro Bowl ultimately had the smallest audience of any Pro Bowl since 2006. 

For those who did watch the game, it wasn’t hard to see why viewership was declining. Players showed little interest in tackling and risking injury, quarterbacks combined for seven interceptions, and running backs might as well have not showed up — only two players received more than three carries.

Even some of the NFL’s top ambassadors criticized the lack of competitiveness, with J.J. Watt saying he’s seen walk-throughs more intense than the Pro Bowl.

The new format should at least temporarily inject some life into the weekend.

Even if the flag football game looks like the previous version of the Pro Bowl, fans have long been demanding that the NFL bring back skills challenges. Plus, what’s not entertaining about a dodgeball game between world-class athletes? 

Pro Bowl start time 2023

  • Date: Sunday, Feb. 5
  • Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET

The Pro Bowl flag football game will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5, a week before Super Bowl 57. It will start at 12 p.m. local time in Las Vegas.

MORE: Super Bowl 2023 odds, line: Eagles vs. Chiefs picks, predictions from SN experts

Where is the Pro Bowl 2023?

  • Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Stadium: Allegiant Stadium

The format of the Pro Bowl has changed, but the location has not.

Unlike some of the league’s other marquee events, such as the Super Bowl and NFL Draft, the Pro Bowl festivities tend to stay in one place for several years. The Pro Bowl spent more than three decades in Hawaii before moving to Orlando in 2017.

The event took place in Las Vegas last year and is expected to stay there for the foreseeable future.


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