NFL season ends Sunday with Pro Bowl

Feb. 1, 2003 at 10:23 AM
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HONOLULU, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The anticlimactic end to the NFL season comes Sunday at Aloha Stadium where the best players in the NFL - or what is left of them - have gathered for the annual Pro Bowl, one week after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers routed the Oakland Raiders, 48-21, in the Super Bowl in San Diego.

The Pro Bowl historically sees many players drop out of the game for questionable injury-related reasons, and this year's game is no exception. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, for example, dropped out due to a bunion on his foot.

The list of those that have declined an invitation to play include Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace, Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes, linebackers Al Wilson of the Denver Broncos and Kendrell Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay defensive lineman Warren Sapp.

While Sapp dropped out due to a knee injury, the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers will be well-represented. Quarterback Brad Johnson, defensive end Simeon Rice, fullback Mike Alstott, linebacker Derrick Brooks and safety John Lynch all made the long trip after taking part in a victory parade in Tampa on Tuesday.

The AFC champion Raiders will be represented by quarterback Rich Gannon, offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy and veteran safety Rod Woodson, who earned his 11th Pro Bowl selection.

Oakland center Barrett Robbins was named to the team in December, but will not make the trip after getting kicked off the Super Bowl roster last Saturday and ending up in a San Diego hospital.

The Philadelphia Eagles saw their season fall short of expectations with a loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship game, but they will have a whopping 10 players competing on Sunday. Seven players were selected to the original team in December, including three-quarters of the secondary - safety Brian Dawkins and cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb was among those added as an injury replacement by NFC Coach Andy Reid of the Eagles.

The Tennessee Titans finished with an 11-5 record and won the AFC South, but did not have a player on the team until defensive end Kevin Carter was added by AFC Coach Jeff Fisher as a "need" player.

The Miami Dolphins have seven players on the AFC squad, including running back Ricky Williams and defensive end Jason Taylor.

The only rookie playing this weekend is New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey.

The AFC won last year's game, 38-30, as Gannon passed for 137 yards and two scores. The all-time series is tied, 16-16, since the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl format began in 1971.

The game will be played in Hawaii for the 24th straight year.

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