Pro Bowl week em­pha­sizes re­laxed at­mos­phere, fun fan in­ter­ac­tion

All-Star ex­hi­bi­tion has long list of en­gag­ing events

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Stephen Ruiz

In football, what hap­pens dur­ing a game — the most crit­i­cal three hours for any football team — often is de­ter­mined by the other 165 hours of the week. Prepa­ra­tion is key. Bill Belichick knows it. Drew Brees knows it. So does Peter O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, though, is not a coach or player. As a se­nior vice pres­i­dent with the NFL, he wears a suit, not a uni­form. In terms of the Pro Bowl, which will re­turn to Camping World Sta­dium in Or­lando at 3 p.m. next Sun­day for the third con­sec­u­tive year, he and oth­ers have been gifted with 51 weeks of prep time to make the week-long se­ries of events lead­ing to the ex­hi­bi­tion unique.

“What we tried to do is learn from the last two years and cre­ate a num­ber of new fan ac­tiv­i­ties and fam­ily-friendly ac­tiv­i­ties that go be­yond where we were in the past,” O’Reilly said.

What fol­lows are some high­lights of what the league has go­ing on in Cen­tral Florida ahead of the Pro Bowl. (You can find a com­plete list of events at probowl.com.) The game will be broad­cast by ABC (WFTV-Ch. 9), ESPN and ESPN De­portes, and tick­ets are avail­able at probowl.com.

Civic-minded

The NFL has in­cor­po­rated a com­mu­nity day from 10 a.m.-noon Satur­day at Dis­ney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Com­plex. Pro Bowl play­ers will par­tic­i­pate in sev­eral A flag football game in­volv­ing Wounded War­riors is part of Pro Bowl Week.

op­por­tu­ni­ties to give back, in­clud­ing:

■ Youth football clin­ics.

■ Coach­ing and en­cour­ag­ing Spe­cial Olympians, youth play­ers and Wounded War­riors dur­ing their var­i­ous flag-football games.

■ Pre­par­ing mil­i­tary-care kits.

■ Com­pil­ing care pack­ages for Safe­House of Semi­nole to help do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence sur­vivors.

■ Pack­ing meals for Sec­ond Har­vest Food Bank of Cen­tral Florida.

■ Build­ing bird­houses for Bill Fred­er­ick Park at Turkey Lake.

■ Help­ing the Tragedy As­sis­tance Pro­gram for Sur­vivors (TAPS) build wooden U.S. flags to honor those lost.

What else is new?

The Pro Bowl Skills Show­down — in which se­lected NFL play­ers par­tic­i­pate in five events, in­clud­ing the 40-yard splash, grid­iron gaunt­let and dodge­ball — now has a

com­pan­ion event.

The Play Football Skills Show­down will in­volve 50 high school play­ers from across the U.S. and take place from 12:30-3:30 p.m. Fri­day at the sports com­plex. They’ll dis­play their skills in se­lected drills, vi­ral chal­lenges and cel­e­bra­tory dances.

A celebrity flag-football game is planned from 6-8 p.m. Fri­day on Field 16. The par­tic­i­pants, though, have not been an­nounced.

As for game day, fans can watch as play­ers walk the red car­pet from noon-1 p.m. as they ar­rive at Camping World Sta­dium. Three judges will se­lect the best dressed player.

Prac­tice times

Prac­tices are free, but fans must reg­is­ter for a fan mo­bile pass via the Pro Bowl — Fan Mo­bile Pass app or through probowl.com. The AFC will prac­tice on Field 7 of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Com­plex while the NFC will be on Field 16.

The AFC will prac­tice at

10:45 a.m. Wed­nes­day and

11:45 a.m. Thurs­day and Fri­day. The NFC will get to­gether at 10:30 a.m. Wed­nes­day and 11:30 a.m. Thurs­day and Fri­day.

Ex­pe­ri­ence counts

The Pro Bowl Ex­pe­ri­ence, a col­lec­tion of more than 10 in­ter­ac­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties, is free.

Want to run an ob­sta­cle course? You can.

Snap a pic­ture with the Pro Bowl tro­phy? No prob­lem.

Play Kick-Tac-Toe on a gi­ant game board? That’s an op­tion, too.

The Pro Bowl Ex­pe­ri­ence will be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Com­plex from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri­day and Satur­day.

It’s a lot to take in, just like the NFL in­tended.

While the re­sult of the Pro Bowl is mean­ing­less, the myr­iad events around the game are meant to be en­ter­tain­ing and, in some cases, im­pact­ful.

STEPHEN M. DOW­ELL/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

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