Pro Bowl week emphasizes relaxed atmosphere, fun fan interaction
All-Star exhibition has long list of engaging events
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.
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
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.
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.
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.