HONOLULU — NFL great Jerry Rice is already bucking conventional fantasy football wisdom in a new Pro Bowl format inspired by the popular hobby.
Rice picked New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn as the anchors of his Pro Bowl team on Tuesday, opting for a passer over a runner.
Rice made the selections in Hawaii after winning a coin toss against Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders. Rice called tails.
The decision left Sanders with Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles and Houston defensive end J.J. Watt for Sunday’s game.
“Don’t think we forget Jerry picked them first,” Watt said when asked whether the new schoolyard-style format would leave players with bruised egos.
The toss and selections start a new process for the NFL in selecting this year’s Pro Bowl teams. Rice and Sanders are serving as captains and general managers in charge of divvying up the NFL stars.
“I’m so pumped — I’m ready to run some routes,” Rice said at a news conference after winning the toss, picking his players and embracing them as active player captains.
“That’s exactly how I thought it was going to go,” Sanders said.
The toss gave Sanders and Rice another chance for good-natured trash talk in a game that’s become as much about showcasing their personalities as celebrating the accomplishments of the NFL’s best.
NFL officials are hoping the new format is a recipe for a more competitive game on the field and higher ratings as the bulk of league fans look toward the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
Brees said players know how to balance the demands of playing hard and avoiding injury.
“What it comes down to is just pride — pride in your effort and your performance,” Brees said.
Rice and Sanders planned to select 11 players each on Tuesday among offensive and defensive linemen, punters, fullbacks and special teamers. The rest of the players will be picked Wednesday during a draft aired live on the NFL Network.