NFL announces changes to Pro Bowl

The National Football League is making drastic changes to the Pro Bowl in hopes of increasing popularity for the league's All-Star Game.

No longer will the contest feature a matchup between the AFC and NFC. Instead, players will be assigned to teams through a draft. The two leading vote- getters will join two fantasy football champions in building the squads. Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will assist in the draft process.

In addition to a new format, there are several other aspects within the game itself that have been altered:

- There are no more kickoffs. The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first and the ball will be placed on the 25-yard line after scoring plays.

- The ball will change hands after each quarter.

- Each squad will consist of 43 players.

- The defense will be allowed to play Cover 2 and press coverage.

- The clock will stop if the offense does not gain at least one yard following the two-minute mark of every quarter.

"We were very receptive to the ideas that (NFLPA president) Domonique (Foxworth) and the players put forth," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement Wednesday. "From there, our office worked closely with him in developing the concept. The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever. We think these changes will enhance the game for both fans and players."

The Pro Bowl player draft will be held Jan. 22, with the game played four days later at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.