HONOLULU — Houston running back Arian Foster says players are going to step up at the Pro Bowl this year, but don’t expect 100 percent effort.
Foster said Friday after practicing with his AFC teammates that it’s unrealistic to expect full effort from the NFL’s top athletes when they’re limited in the plays they’re able to run.
“This isn’t basketball — you can’t go play a pickup game of football,” Foster said.
Foster said if the NFL expects 100 percent effort from its stars and league officials are willing to cancel the game if they don’t see that, then the game will likely be scrapped.
“I think it’s an honor and a tradition, but for you to expect the best athletes in the NFL to come out and play a game 100 percent when you can’t game plan, you can’t blitz, you can’t do all these things, it’s not going to be competitive like everybody wants it to be,” Foster said.
Effort has emerged as the top theme for this year’s Pro Bowl as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made clear the all-star game won’t be played going forward if it’s second-rate football.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning said that would be a shame, meaning players have to play better to keep it around.
Manning said the NFL will lose the value of players interacting if the Pro Bowl goes away, which helps to keep the league strong. The true value of the game over the years, he said, is for younger players to have interactions with older veterans, like Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson chatting with former Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson.
“Don’t tell me there’s not great value in that conversation,” Manning said.
“If they cancel this, then I think the NFL will lose that,” Manning said. “Is there monetary value in that conversation? I would argue yes. I would argue that’s helping keep the NFL as great as it is. So I’d hate for it to be canceled.”
The AFC and NFC squads took team photos at a resort on Oahu’s west side before practicing separately on a 50-yard field in front of family, friends and some fans.
AFC defenders played a little more defense than in two prior practices. During seven-on-seven drills, Kansas City safety Eric Berry picked off a Manning pass and Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie intercepted Houston quarterback Matt Schaub. On one play, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck gave the ball to Foster, who looked downfield to throw a pass but didn’t.
“Throw that,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis dared Foster.
“I want to make sure Ray Anderson’s paying attention,” a Denver coach shouted to the players after Jets safety LaRon Landry broke up a pass, referring to the NFL executive who earlier this week said the league would make a decision about the Pro Bowl by April. Anderson was at the practice.
Wide receivers A.J. Green and Victor Cruz said part of practice is about getting the timing and rhythm right between players.
“It’s just getting comfortable with the plays, getting comfortable with the little nuances of the playbook really quickly and once you get acclimated, it’s fairly easy,” said Cruz, the New York Giants star.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia .