With the first-ever unconferenced Pro Bowl just two days away, the new format for the game has certainly shaken up the traditional NFC and AFC dividing lines among the game’s elite players.
A pass from the Saints’ Drew Brees to the Browns’ Josh Gordon? Linebacker Robert Mathis sacking Colts teammate Andrew Luck? Both scenarios represent distinct possibilities under this year’s Pro Bowl format.
For the first time, captains from teams headed by NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders helped pick from the available pool of 84 players to assemble the two rosters.
“I can only imagine how a (general manager) does it when they’re trying to sign players and go through free agency and all that stuff,” Quinn said. “Just being around all the great players, and being on the same team, it’s a great honor to be around all these guys.”
Defensively, Quinn will be joined by the Dolphins’ Cameron Wake and the Saints’ Cameron Jordan at defensive end for Team Rice.
Despite the NFC West posting an NFL-best 30-10 record outside its own division, appearances by players within the division will be scarce. With the Seahawks preparing for the Super Bowl and the 49ers’ contingent of eight players opting out, the Cardinals’ Justin Bethel and Patrick Peterson will be the only members of the division other than the Rams’ Quinn and P Johnny Hekker making appearances Sunday.
While some veterans in the division have opted out, Rams first-timers Hekker and Quinn have relished not only the opportunity to play alongside the best in the game, but to bond with the NFL’s other elite players off the field as well.
“It’s definitely a relaxed atmosphere,” Hekker said. “During an all-player meeting we had, I was pinching myself. I was sitting right next to Jason Witten and Robert Quinn behind me. I had Brandon Marshall and DeSean Jackson there. Guys who I’ve seen and revered their skills, but I’ve never really met them. It’s been super impressive to meet these guys.”
For Quinn, whose selection as one of four Pro Bowl captains reveals the notice he has received amongst his peers throughout the league, this week has signified just how quickly he’s advanced to the top of his profession.
“It really makes you appreciate everything,” Quinn said. “There’s a satisfaction for the hard work you put in all season.”