Greetings from sunny Central Florida where Pro Bowl practices began Wednesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. With seven players participating in this week’s events, the Bears are very well represented. On Sunday, they hope to lift the NFC to a Pro Bowl victory. In the meantime, here are some of the sights and sounds from Wednesday’s happenings.
Brian Urlacher sitting atop a dunk tank? Von Miller participating in a precision passing competition? Saquon Barkley looking like Neo from “The Matrix” in a highly competitive game of dodgeball? The Pro Bowl Skills Showdown went into the books with 10 players from each conference competing in five events.
Make no mistake: This is a made-for-TV spectacle and excruciatingly long for spectators in attendance. Far too many lengthy breaks and not enough mascot and cheerleader entertainment to pass the downtime.
Still, there was plenty of fun to be had. And if you’re wondering why we’re slow-playing the results from Wednesday’s events, it’s because those are the rules. The Skills Showdown was not broadcast live and will instead air on ESPN at 8 p.m. Thursday. Therefore, the NFL and ESPN have the results of the event strictly embargoed with media prohibited from sharing certain details from what went down Wednesday.
“Specialty?” he said. “Shoot, I don’t know. Move something heavy, I guess. Dodgeball should be fun. All I know is I want to get a win.”
For the record, Hicks took part in the 40-Yard Splash, Gridiron Gauntlet and Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball. Trubisky was a part of Best Hands, Precision Passing, 40-Yard Splash and the best-of-three dodgeball series.
We might be skirting the rules a touch here. But the second-year quarterback did not post the best score in the Precision Passing competition. Nor was he the worst of the six competitors, who also included Miller, Adam Thielen, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. And if Trubisky goes back to watch the film of his performance as Mike Evans’ passer in the Best Hands event, he’ll certainly find a few things to correct.
Still, it was a decent way for the 24-year-old quarterback to get his feet wet at his first Pro Bowl. And Trubisky was thrilled to be surrounded by six of his Bears teammates.
“It’s fun,” he said. “We’re rolling kind of deep. So that’s awesome to see.”
Where’s the flag?
Much of the NFL world is still talking about the missed pass-interference call in Sunday’s Rams-Saints game, a no-call on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman that might have ultimately cost the Saints a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in nine years. Bears safety Eddie Jackson weighed in on the topic Wednesday, adding to the pile-on.
“I was kind of shocked,” Jackson said. “There were a lot of things out there that were supposed to be called that weren’t getting called. It was a shocker. And I felt kind of crazy because it was like, man, that just cost them their season. … I knew the Saints were frustrated. You could tell. I felt their pain and their frustration. But that’s football. Things like that happen.”
Quote of note
“This is what you dream about. This is the best of the best. And it’s an honor to be in this position. This is going to be a lot of fun.” — Hicks on participating in his first Pro Bowl.
Odds and ends
— Not even the ultra-relaxed environment of the Pro Bowl could steer Luck, the Colts quarterback, off cliche lane. Before participating in the Precision Passing contest, Luck was asked by ESPN’s Lisa Salters what his strategy would be. “One throw at a time. Hopefully hit some targets, I guess.” OK, Andrew. Get some pool time here soon. Take a load off, buddy.
— As fans passed the time between events in the Skills Showdown, one of the biggest explosions from the crowd came when New England mascot Pat Patriot walked in front of the stands and was greeted by a chorus of boos. Pat Patriot used his mascot mitts to count off the rings the Patriots have won. (It’s five, if you lost count.) And if he needed some extra moral support, a Patriots fan in a Josh Gordon jersey rushed down from the stands to give him a big hug. Random. Later, Pat Patriot definitely needed comfort after Jets safety Jamal Adams tackled him with legitimate force. It was a playful moment. We think.
— R&B singer Ciara also received a loud roar from the crowd as she roamed the sidelines at the Skills Showdown. Ciara, Russell Wilson’s wife, was carrying their 21-month-old daughter, Sienna. Wilson later said that his battle against Luck, a fellow class of 2012 quarterback, in the Precision Passing competition had something more at stake. Said Wilson: “There’s money on the line. Bragging rights on the line. Diapers on the line.”