Views from the 2018 NFL Pro Bowl week in Orlando, FL
ORLANDO – Before his first Pro Bowl game Sunday at soggy Camping World Stadium, Dallas Cowboys tight end and 11-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten gave his teammate DeMarcus Lawrence, who was making his first trip to the all-star event, a bit of late-weekend advice.
"I just told him to have fun, soak it up and enjoy it," Witten said.
And that's exactly what Lawrence did in the AFC's last-minute 24-23 victory.
"It was a blessing," said the defensive end. "It was fun. My kids were excited to be down in all the fun and parks, and I enjoyed the game and practices, so it was great."
Seeing only limited action, Lawrence was credited with one solo tackle in the second quarter. Still, he said it was unforgettable playing with the best of the best in what he hopes will be an annual occurrence for him in his still young career.
"It's an honor to play with these guys," said Lawrence. "All the guys on the team were happy for me, and I was happy to get a chance to play here."
Lawrence was selected to his first Pro Bowl after a breakout effort in 2017. He finished the regular season tied for second in the league with 14.5 sacks, equaling Jacksonville's Calais Campbell and behind only Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones. Lawrence's sacks led to 160 yards in total losses, however, which was tops in the NFL.
His 14.5 sacks were also the most for a Cowboys defensive player since DeMarcus Ware had 19.5 in 2011. In addition, Lawrence was credited with 58 total tackles during the season and four forced fumbles.
While Lawrence said he knows football is the ultimate team game, he credited good health and a greater knowledge of the system for the improved play in his fourth season.
"I was focused on making playoffs this year," he said. "That's what I wanted, but it's nice to be (at the Pro Bowl)."
Witten was credited with two catches for 16 yards in Sunday's game where the sometimes-driving rainfall also produced a total of six turnovers between the two teams.
"I was glad to be out here with these guys," Witten said. "It was an honor."
Cowboys center Travis Fredrick, who was making his fourth straight Pro Bowl appearance, said the chance to play alongside his fellow all-stars is always fun and rewarding.
"It never gets old," Fredrick said. "There are players always changing teams and changing sides, so you get to see a lot of friends."
In the end, the Cowboys and their NFC side may have lost, but the memories gained from being at the Pro Bowl were indeed priceless.