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Originally published July 31, 2013 at 7:24 PM | Page modified July 31, 2013 at 7:29 PM

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Pro Bowl will go with fantasy draft

Changes for all-star game also include dropping AFC-NFC format, kickoffs

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The Pro Bowl is getting a much-needed face-lift.

The often dull all-star game between players from the AFC and NFC is being overhauled, beginning with the game that will be played at the end of this upcoming season. The biggest change will be to the rosters as players will no longer represent their conference but be selected in a fantasy draft-style selection process several days before the game.

The new structure was announced Wednesday by the NFL and NFLPA in a statement that said the changes would make the Pro Bowl “the ultimate fan-friendly celebration of the game.”

The sides will be drafted by Hall of Famers and honorary team captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders along with the two leading vote-getters in the league and two fans who are fantasy football champions of leagues on NFL.com.

Participants will be selected by position based on voting by fans, coaches and players as they have been in the past. Each roster still will include 43 players, but instead of a kickoff returner there will be an extra defensive back. Why? Oh yeah, the kickoffs are being eliminated. The ball will start on the 25 yard line at the beginning of each quarter and after each score.

“That was one of my goals for this season,” said Chicago’s Devin Hester, the NFL record-holder ’s for combined career kick return touchdowns. “I won’t make the Pro Bowl. They can’t do that.”

Notes

• Saying he was “ashamed and disgusted” with himself, Philadelphia wide receiver Riley Cooper apologized repeatedly for making a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert that was caught on video and led to him getting fined.

“This is the lowest of lows,” Cooper said. “This is not the type of person I want to be portrayed as. This isn’t the type of person I am. I’m extremely sorry.”

Cooper said he was drinking when he directed the slur at an African-American security guard at the concert in June.

“That’s no excuse for what I said. I don’t use that term,” he said. “I was raised better than that. I have a great mom and dad and they’re disgusted with my actions.”

Cooper said he was fined a significant amount of money by the Eagles.

• Denver lured Ryan Lilja out of retirement, agreeing to terms with the offensive lineman. The Broncos are searching for a replacement at center for Dan Koppen, who is out for the season after tearing his left ACL last weekend.

• Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert was in pads and at practice, but still a day away from a full return. Gabbert took limited snaps — none in 11-on-11 drills — while recovering from a sprained right ankle.

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