clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

49ers star players share their thoughts on the revamped Pro Bowl format

Jordan was on the ground in Las Vegas this past weekend and caught up with the 49ers that made the Pro Bowl

2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

With five of its players in attendance, the San Francisco 49ers were at the forefront of the NFL’s attempt to revitalize it’s All-Star game in Las Vegas over the weekend.

It’s been clear for some time that the fans were searching for a more exciting format to showcase the league's best players, and the NFL responded by ditching the traditional game entirely, and delivering the first-ever edition of the “Pro Bowl Games” in its place.

While they were mixed reviews among fans about the myriad of skill competitions paired with a healthy dose of flag football, the majority of the players who participated in the event expressed their delight with how it went.

It was clear that the energy and enthusiasm from the players had improved drastically from the Pro Bowls from the previous few years. There was a palpable level of genuine excitement coming from both sidelines throughout the event. That also permeated into the stands, where a surprisingly large number of fans ardently embraced this new twist on the NFL’s all-star exhibition.

After the event, I had the chance to catch up with a few of the 49ers players who participated, and ask them a bit about their experience and get a pulse on if they thought this new format was a success and something that could be sustainable moving forward.

There is nobody in the league that I was more eager to hear this feedback from than George Kittle, who’s electric personality was tailor-made to play a prominent role in the kind of layout the NFL put together for this event.

I asked Kittle about his overall experience, and if the first-ever Pro Bowl games met his standards for having fun:

Yeah I think for the first ever seven on seven Pro Bowl, I thought it was a fantastic job. I thought all the events were fun, the way they kept score was engaging and it kept everyone on their toes a little bit. By the time you get to the third game “hey it’s a six point game” winner walks away with double the pay check, Guys kind of focus up a little bit more. It was fun too because you’re not worried about getting hurt, you’re out there running, you’re cutting, but there’s no like you’re going to get hit, you’re not going to get bumped weird. It was pretty fun, I love the Pro Bowl games”.

I then followed up by asking Kittle if the skill games and other activities would have the backing of the players moving forward. Kittle also added a few solid ideas to enhance the event in the years to come:

Yeah I think we should continue with the skill games, I know I still think we should throw in like a celebrity softball game, maybe a kickball game, who knows get the guys in paintball. Those are my ideas for the future, but dodgeball was really fun, that was the most engaging. When you have those team sports it’s really fun, but overall yeah it was a great time.

While this was not the first time Fred Warner had been selected to a Pro Bowl, it was the first time he got the chance to attend after the 2020 season had its all-star game cancelled due to the restrictions still in place during the pandemic.

Warner led all players in the flag football games with seven total tackles, and I asked him if he felt like the level of competition was something that would make these kinds of events fun for players moving forward:

“It was incredible, I mean the game was fun. It was insane being on the opposite side of the ball seeing guys like Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, like all loaded with star power at the skill positons. So it was cool to be out there and compete against them, you know obviously we ended up winning which is most important, but yeah it was fun, it was a great time.”

Talanoa Hufanga echoed a similar sentiment when I spoke with him:

“It was fun, it was exciting to be out here in this atmosphere. Pro Bowl week was just amazing”

Nobody has more Pro Bowl experience on the 49ers roster than Trent Williams, who was named to the Pro Bowl for the 10th time in his illustrious career this season.

I asked Williams what he thought about the overall energy of the event, and if this was something he personally could get behind if the league decides to move forward with this format:

Yeah, I do. I think it is a good way to switch it up, the different competitions were very thought out, very creative. The scoring format was creative. So I enjoyed, I enjoyed it a lot, hopefully they keep doing it and adding to it and I know it will continue to get better every year.

While Williams and his fellow offensive linemen didn’t have a huge role in the flag football game, they were a major part of the “move the chains” drill, which in my opinion was the most exciting skill challenge of the day during the event.

Football would be nothing without the big guys up front, and finding a format that is inclusive to them and highlights the strength and athleticism they possess is a win all around.

Ultimately, finding a diverse range of games and activities that allows a wider range of players and fans to enjoy this event is the reason why I think the NFL has a chance to make this into an enjoyable product moving forward.

Maybe they’ll take Kittle up on his suggestions and spice things up a bit in the years to come, but after the inaugural event, one thing was abundantly clear. This was a step in the right direction and a massive improvement into what the Pro Bowl had deluded to during previous years, and it’s clear the players felt the same way about that too.