The primary driving force behind the elimination of the Pro Bowl as an actual football game was the matter of player safety. Not every player who participated in the inaugural Pro Bowl Games last weekend managed to make it out unscathed.
Cleveland Browns All-Pro edge rusher Myles Garrett suffered a dislocated toe in an obstacle course against Brian Burns. It did not occur during any of the three flag football games, which are 7-on-7 events excluding defensive linemen.
In spite of the injury, however, it’s since been reported that the toe was able to be popped back into place. X-rays came back negative, and he is expected to have avoided the need for surgery. A bullet dodged for the first non-football Pro Bowl.
Garrett is one of the most prominent defenders in the sport today, a four-time Pro Bowler over six seasons. He has compiled 16 sacks in each of the past two seasons. Prior to 2021, that would have tied the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time franchise record.
He would likely be a five-time consecutive Pro Bowler and All-Pro if not for the interruption of the 2019 season. Already on pace for a career year with 10 sacks in 10 games, Garrett earned a suspension for the remainder of the season after striking Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph on the head with Rudolph’s own helmet. He didn’t make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro list that season, but he has every other year since 2018.
The Browns will likely be in the market for another complementary rusher after Jadeveon Clowney’s remarks. They have since changed defensive coordinators, now under Jim Schwarz, who seemed to expressively acknowledge that they intend to do exactly what Clowney complained about, which is to put Garrett in situations to excel.
That’s why players like Garrett make the Pro Bowl, because they excel. That’s also why Garrett faced among the most double-teamed defenders in football no matter how much Cleveland attempted to scheme him.
One wonders, however, if he will not rethink his participation in such events after this past weekend’s injury scare. Even without a traditional football game taking place, many players still opted not to participate, including the Steelers’ own T.J. Watt, though Cameron Heyward stepped in to play as an alternate.