HONOLULU - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sounded pleased with Sunday's Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium after previously threatening to cancel the game if play didn't improve.
Goodell said Monday in an ESPN Radio interview that participants played harder and made the game very competitive.
"It was real football," Goodell said. "It was something that I give a lot of credit to the players."
The Buffalo Bills’ Kyle Williams, of Team Rice, tackles the Green Bay Packers’ Eddie Lacy, of Team Sanders, during Team Rice’s victory Sunday at Aloha Stadium in the debut of the Pro Bowl’s unconferenced format.
Goodell said Domonique Foxworth, president of the players union, worked with players to come up with the idea of changing the game from its usual AFC-vs.-NFC format. The new unconferenced format based partly on pickup games and fantasy sports gave players something to get excited about, Goodell said.
"I believe it was a very, very positive step and I salute the players and I'm glad they had so much fun," Goodell said. "And I think fans had a fun time watching - I know I did."
NFL greats Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders picked teams during a two-day draft. Team Rice beat Team Sanders 22-21 on a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 41 seconds left.
The game was more defensive than in recent years with eight turnovers and nine sacks. Neither team scored in the third quarter or for the first 10 minutes of the fourth.
"Guys were competitive and we're having fun, but at the same time the competitive juices get going and you want to win," Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said on the field after the game. Kuechly had a game-high 12 tackles, including 11 solo tackles.
The NFL hasn't committed to holding future Pro Bowls or said whether the game will stay in Hawaii, where the contest has been played 34 of the last 35 years.
"Here, right here," Kuechly said when asked where future Pro Bowls should take place, echoing comments from other players who say the game and festivities offer a reward for players and their families and a chance to get to know other stars throughout the league.
"We're going to play regardless, but I think it's easiest to play it here," Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles said.