HONOLULU – Adrian Peterson signed and tossed miniature footballs into the Aloha Stadium stands, then chatted with Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen. Arian Foster played Peyton Manning’s bodyguard for stadium cameras and told fans he recently walked on hot lava.
The Pro Bowl players practiced a little, too, on a sunny Saturday in Honolulu a day before an all-star game that will likely be used to determine its own future.
But the game’s main purpose is fun, said several players including Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph and Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles.
“I feel like there’s no responsibility, it’s just all about fun,” Charles said. “You work hard during the year – it’s not like a competitive game.”
Competition – or at least the appearance of it – is exactly what the NFL is looking for from its stars today as it uses the game as a measurement of whether it’s worth putting on in future years. Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the game will stop if play doesn’t improve, drawing mixed reactions from top players all over the league.
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman says he doesn’t want this year’s Pro Bowl players to be known as the group who led to the game’s cancellation, taking away an honor and privilege for future players.
“I don’t want this to happen on my watch,” he said.
Rudolph said the players’ natural competitiveness will help make the game entertaining.
“It’s a game we want to win, so it’ll be fun,” Rudolph said.
The game should see plenty of scoring, thanks to limits on blitzing and defensive schemes.
Houston tight end Owen Daniels says fans won’t see many big hits.
“You’re not going to see people play dirty or giving it up like a playoff game, but that’s just the way it is,” Daniels said. “I think you’ve got to accept that and know that we love being out here and I think you’ve got to know that the people here love having us out here.”
Daniels said he’s been motivated to return to the Pro Bowl after making his first all-star team in 2009. He said he sees the Pro Bowl as a good consolation for players who would rather be in the Super Bowl.
Peterson said moments like his chat with two NFL greats are what make the trip worthwhile for him.
“It’s the best part,” he said. “It’s a bonus, man.”
Charles said he’s enjoyed watching the leadership of other Pro Bowl players as he’s been taking on a bigger leadership role with the Chiefs.
“I’m just trying to keep grinding and working hard,” he said. “Trying to be where I’m at right now – trying to get back here next year.”