The Arizona Cardinals starting LG believes the league should pony up
The NFL Pro Bowl has become a joke, even when it includes its fair share of Arizona Cardinals. You know it. I know it. The NFL knows it. The players definitely know it.
And following a relatively entertaining MLB All-Star game, the difference between the “showcase” games has never been as glaring, But Justin Pugh has an answer: Pay the players.
Darren Rovell from actionnetwork.com tweeted out a poll asking which league has the best All-Star game. The final results were not surprising on either end, with MLB getting most of the votes and the NFL coming in dead last.
Rovell then added insult to injury by calling the results an “embarrassment.” And that’s when Pugh chimed in. The Cardinals starting Left Guard, who has never made a Pro Bowl, said the game can regain an audience by giving players a game check to play.
While that would never happen, he does have a point. The NFL is unique in that it’s a sport nearly impossible to play without a certain level of violence being involved.
And if you are asking players like Pugh to sacrifice their bodies and potentially their health, they should get paid more than tip money to show up.
The most realistic plan is to ditch the NFL Pro Bowl and never see an Arizona Cardinals player in NFC blue ever again.
The inconvenient truth for the league is that the Pro Bowl has been hemorrhaging viewers (and interest) over the last decade. Players have gone from looking forward to the trip to Hawaii and actually playing football to tripping over each other to be the first to opt out and let someone else deal with the hassle.
The NFL has tried numerous fixes to breathe new life into the game, but none has worked. Instead, it has devolved into a glorified game of two-hand touch. As a result, fans of players who are actually out on the field are mostly rooting for nobody to tear an ACL.
The reality is, short of agreeing to the idea by Pugh to give players a game check and make it worthwhile for them to take on the risk of playing a real game, there is not much that can be done.
The short-term risk of non-contact injuries and long-term risk of life-altering ailments like CTE is all too real. So it isn’t feasible to ask players to give it their all for a meaningless game.
Justin Pugh would almost surely agree that players take All-Pro selections much more seriously than Pro Bowl nods. It’s an honor that teams have begun to work into contract incentives much more than Pro Bowl appearances.
The NFL Pro Bowl has lost its luster and is probably never getting it back. So it’s past time to get rid of it.
Money talks, so it’s understandable why Pugh responded the way he did, as a way to defend the NFL while offering a solution. But, unfortunately, it’s not a realistic one.
Playing a Pro Bowl at full speed has just become too dangerous. The issues are no laughing matter, even if the game itself is.