The void between the AFC/NFC championships and the Super Bowl is now filled with the Pro Bowl. The game this year will be a different format than in past years, with Pro Bowl alumni drafting players rather than having an AFC team facing off against an NFC team.
The two teams this year will be Team Rice, headed up by team captain Jerry Rice and Team Sanders, headed up by captain Deion Sanders. The teams were built over the course of a two day draft event making this year’s Pro Bowl a live fantasy football game where the teams are completely unconferenced.
There are two fullbacks representing their teams in the 2014 Pro Bowl, Carolina Panther Mike Tolbert and the Oakland Raiders very own Marcel Reece. For years, Raider Nation has been disappointed by the lack of touches afforded Reece. But despite that, this is his second year being elected to the Pro Bowl and he is, in fact, the only Raider representing his team.
The Pro Bowl draft saw Rice selecting Tolbert so Raider Nation will be watching their lone Raider play for Team Sanders this weekend. Tolbert rushed for 361 yards and had five touchdowns and led the Panthers with seven scores. Reece, on the other hand, finished the 2013 season with 549 yards and four touchdowns.
He is also the only Raider to have scored a touchdown through the air as well as on the ground.
When asked about passing Reece over in the draft, Rice said, “I feel like he can do everything. He can come out of the backfield, he can catch the ball, he can run the ball, he can do all those things. But then when it comes down to really blocking guys, I feel like Mike Tolbert, he’s the guy.”
Sanders talked about Reece being assigned to his team saying, “That’s who we want. We love him because he’s not getting the ball. All we want him to do is block, for that man over there.” Sanders was referring to Kansas City Chiefs running back, Jamaal Charles who Raider Nation faults for a demoralizing loss in week 15 of the regular season.
The Raiders fan base must be pleased to hear praise from the likes of Rice and Sanders about their own fullback. It’s always fun to hear positive things about your favorite players from those who know the game so intimately. It’s somewhat of a validation for fans to hear that highly respected analysts share the same opinions about their favorite players.
Raider Nation can only hope to see Reece get the ball more often even if it isn’t necessarily for the Oakland Raiders. Any time Reece was fed the ball more during the regular season, the Raiders definitely benefited from it. I’m sure the fans were excited to see him get some much needed recognition in his selection to his second Pro Bowl.
Team Sanders will be coached up by the Indianapolis coaching staff alongside head coach Chuck Pagano. Team Rice will be headed up by head coach Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers coaching staff. The Oakland Raiders coaching staff will be watching from afar and hopefully game planning for what moves the Raiders need to be making as soon as the Super Bowl is over.
It almost makes a Raiders fan want to just fast forward a couple of weeks to see what general manager Reggie McKenzie and company get after as far as reconstructing the team.
It will definitely be interesting to see how this Pro Bowl shakes out. I don’t know about you, but Pro Bowls of years past have been so lackluster that I used to put it on and nap to it. I like the idea of team captains, drafting, and mixing the conferences together. I think that this new format should add a new level of competition to it, bringing with it intrigue. Raider Nation hopes to see Reece shine as the lone Raiders representative this year to show the NFL what we as fans have known about him all along, that he is a beast for the silver and black!