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Notebook | For the NFL, Two Offseason Events Have New Looks

Reimagined Pro Bowl Days in Las Vegas and a New Look Senior Bowl in Alabama


In the life of an NFL player there are red flags ... and then there is flag football.

The latter, a 7 vs. 7, AFC vs. NFC flag football game, will be the marquee event that will cap Pro Bowl Days on Sunday, Feb. 5 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas -- and the game will feature four Jets players: CB Sauce Gardner, LB C.J. Mosley, DT Quinnen Williams and ST ace Justin Hardee.

The new Pro Bowl Days format officially begins on Thursday, Feb. 2 with skills challenges on and off the field and a live concert. The skills challenge will be held at the Raiders' headquarters and practice facility, Intermountain Performance Healthcare Center, held over multiple days, will be carried live on ESPN beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

The winning conference in each event -- there are eight -- earns three points toward a possible 24 points. The winner from the first two flag football games on Sunday gets six points for the team. Total points will determine the winner of the 2023 Pro Bowl Games.

The four Jets players are already winners via their selection to participate in the event.

"Oh man, for them, awesome, was really, really pumped for C.J," Jets head coach Robert Saleh said. "You know I talk about C.J. because I think he was like fifth in fan voting or something like that because he doesn't get as much fanfare as Sauce is fantastic and deserving, Quinnen, Hardee, fantastic.

"But when you go into the coaches and player vote, being fifth at your position, and you end up No. 1, it says something. It says that what you've been putting on tape is ridiculous, and C.J.'s been ridiculous this year. So, really happy for those guys."

DC Jeff Ulbrich has three of his defensive players at the event and has been especially impressed with Gardner -- who has already been named an Associated Press First Team All-Pro and is a front-runner for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award at next week's NFL Honors event -- from the beginning. 

"His talent from the day he stepped into the building has been undeniable," Ulbrich said. "His approach is the stuff that I think impressed us the most. He approaches this game like a veteran already. So excited for him and his future and to think he made the Pro Bowl, and he is absolutely just scratching the surface of what he can become."

Senior Bowl Coaching Changes
In many ways, the Jets coaching staff crushed it last year when it oversaw the National squad at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.

But the previous format to have complete NFL team coaching staffs put the hopeful collegiate players through their paces has been changed for this year's event, which will be played on Saturday, Feb. 4.

First, let's turn back the clock to 2022 when the Jets' coaching staff went to Mobile and turned a keen eye on the players, knowing that the Green & White owned two first-round draft picks (that turned into a third). Four of the seven Jets draft picks showed off their talent in the Senior Bowl -- DE Jermaine Johnson; plus DE Micheal Clemons, TE Jeremy Ruckert and OL Max Mitchell.

Speaking last year about the advantages of having his coaching staff at the game, Saleh said: "You just want to see these young men and check their football character. The great thing about this game and this whole entire week is we get the information that you're not going to see by watching the tape. We're in the meetings with them. We have a little bit more of an intimate setting with these young men. That's where I think the valuable information is going to come from. The practice is the practice. It's the meeting rooms where I think we get the most value."

This year, however, the NFL decided to not send complete coaching staffs to the Senior Bowl (which has been played in Mobile since 1951), but will share coaches with the Shrine Bowl, which has been moved to Las Vegas and will be played on Thursday, Feb. 2. Now, the two games will rotate each year -- the Shrine game this year will have full NFL coaching staffs (New England and Atlanta), with the Senior Bowl getting the full staffs next year.

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