ORLANDO: Pro Bowl week is a time for players to take in the fact that they are among the best in the game.
It is also a time for players to pick each other’s minds to look for help on how they can beat a certain player of team’s scheme that they guy your asking team had success against, that your team didn’t.
It is just professional courtesy to share some insight into the game they have mastered.
To be named to the Pro Bowl, even as a backup or replacement player, is an honor for sure. But the game itself is not played at anywhere near the intensity level a regular season or playoff game is played at.
For players from franchises like the Buffalo Bills or Cleveland Browns, teams that have struggled for years to forge even a .500 record, the Pro Bowl is special.
But for Eagles Malcolm Jenkins and Lane Johnson, both added to Pro Bowl roster after injuries and other players who are in the Super Bowl next week, it’s an honor, just not the same as last year.
“They’re both incredible honors,” Jenkins said after Thursday’s practice that was held indoors because of rain. “But I think everybody here at the Pro Bowl has a little bit of a sour taste in their mouth that they’re not playing next week. That’s the ultimate goal. These things are cool to celebrate you own individual accomplishments. You get respect from your peers and to be amongst other great players, it’s a huge honor. But I think all of us would trade a Pro Bowl in second to obviously be in a Super Bowl.”
This is Jenkins’ third Pro Bowl. Last season he was selected but didn’t play because he was busy helping the Eagles win their first-ever Super Bowl Championship. He was also selected in 2015 and played in the game.
“That doesn’t take away from this week,” Jenkins continued. “I’ve been able to enjoy it, to be around guys who are the best in the world at what they do.”
Johnson was named to the Pro Bowl as well as the All Pro team in 2017. This year he was added to the Pro Bowl roster just after the Super Bowl teams qualified.
So, this is his first time playing in the game and participating in the week-long festivities.
“It’s just a new experience,” Johnson said. “It’s my first time here at the Pro Bowl. I just wanted to take the family and kind of enjoy it. It’s a weird situation. Obviously, we’d still like to be playing, had a good chance against the Saints. But that’s how football is. I just try and cherish each moment, you never know when it’s going to be your last. I’m just glad to be part of everything.”
Both players talked about meeting players they only knew from hitting them on the field.
“It’s cool to be around guys I’ve played against year after year and catch up with them,” Johnson said. “I try to pick their brains…yeah, it’s been a great experience.”
Johnson said all the players from both conferences got together when they first arrived in Orlando.
“Chatting with guys you go against you see across the league, see how they’re doing. It’s interesting, everybody has their own story,” Johnson said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Jenkins said the same thing.
“You get to know them off the field but also pick their minds about what they see on the field,” Jenkins said. “It’s a great time.”
Both players talked about the level of play and had some different approaches.
“The week leading up to the game is the best part,” Jenkins said. “You get to hang out with these guys. We see each other as opponents, but rarely get to interact as peers. But for the game, you want to represent yourself well. There’s not much on the line but the name on your jersey. We’re here because we’re the best at what we do. So, when we go out there, we want to represent that.”
Johnson said there is not much pressure but…
“It’s not going to be Super Bowl Sunday,” Johnson said. “You never know who is going to play hard, who is not…but if (Von) Miller chooses to play hard, I’ve got to get ready for it.”
“Hell no,” Johnson said with a laugh.” “The last thing you want to do is get him fired up and be one-on-one all game. It’s not going to end to pretty for anyone.”
Jenkins agreed….no trash talking Sunday.
“These are the best of the best,” Jenkins said, also with a laugh. “These are not guys you want to piss off! Keep it a friendly competition.”
Jenkins took a few minutes to reflect on how the Birds stormed back from a 4-6 start to win five of six games and not only make the playoffs but to upset the 12-win Chicago Bears in the Wild Card game.
“The season didn’t go quite the way we wrote it up,” Jenkins said. “We ended up where we wanted to be. And the road they we took to get there, we earned it. There’s something satisfying about going out and earning everything that you have. You appreciate it more.
“We were in the playoffs it felt, like seven weeks straight,” Jenkins continued. “Every game was a must win, must win. I think the excitement that that brought, the togetherness that we had showed in that span…it made it worthwhile not just for us but for our fans.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii