ORLANDO – The name of the game at the Pro Bowl is rather simple.
Doesn’t matter if the game is played in Hawaii, like it was for so many years, or at the host site of the Super Bowl, or just an offsite location such as Orlando this year.
When the NFL’s best players get together for a week of practices leading up to the all-star game, the No. 1 objective is to have fun.
No one is seemingly doing that more than Ezekiel Elliott, who is not only the youngest player at the Pro Bowl at age 21, but is also the youngest in the entire NFL. While he’s just a rookie and has never experienced this setting before, the Cowboys’ star running back is fitting in rather nicely in that regard.
Whether he’s lobbying to kick a field goal in practice behind Detroit’s Matt Prater, or he’s exchanged martial arts moves during a play with Seattle’s Richard Sherman, Elliott is clearly having a blast here at the Pro Bowl. Still, he understands the importance of being selected to this game.
[embeddedad0]“It means everything,” Elliott said Thursday of the experience. “Being a rookie to play this game, just come out here to have fun. I’ve done nothing but have fun. It’s great vibes out here. We have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. We all respect each other’s games. We’re spending time and learning from each other but having fun at the same time.”
On Thursday, Elliott found himself on the punt team, something that is rare to most players in this game. But since special teams is still a part of the game, superstar players such as Elliott find themselves in positions that are unusual. With that, Elliott made sure to inform the Cowboys’ coaching staff of his desire to run a fake punt.
Elliott also tried his hand on defense … at least for one play.
Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett, the outspoken and playful brother of former Cowboys tight end Martellus, wanted to get the ball in his hands for a play. So Bennett and Elliott switched jerseys, so Bennett could “sneak” into the offensive huddle and run the ball wearing the No. 21 jersey. Meanwhile, Elliott lined up at defensive end with Bennett’s No. 72 jersey.
“I was trying to play some D-end,” Elliott joked. “We’re just having fun.”
And Elliott and his teammates deserve that, especially after the 13-3 season that saw him become the fifth rookie since 1970 to lead the league in rushing with 1,631 yards, which was by far a Cowboys rookie record.
Like his teammates said earlier in the week, Elliott hasn’t completely gotten past the playoff loss to the Packers, but doesn’t expect to be.
“You can never truly be over a loss” Elliott said. “You have to put it behind you and move on. That’s how you get better.”
Elliott, who was also named a First Team All-Pro, is expected to start Sunday’s Pro Bowl game along with five other Cowboys teammates – Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
The other running backs on the NFC squad are Chicago’s rookie Jordan Howard and Philadelphia’s Darren Sproles. Both Howard and Sproles were alternates for the injured David Johnson (Arizona) and Atlanta’s DeVonta Freeman, who will play in the Super Bowl next week.
A look at highlights from day two of Pro Bowl Week, including the NFC team photo and practice at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.