HONOLULU – Deion Sanders is giving fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Rice one concession as Pro Bowl week begins: The record-setting wide receiver will call the coin toss Tuesday that starts the process of picking teams.
Besides that, the legendary cornerback claims he has the upper hand under the game’s new schoolyard-style format.
“I think it is going to be a blowout,” Sanders said. “I don’t think Jerry has strategized.”
Rice’s response: “That’s not going to happen. I have a pretty good mindset of where I want to go.”
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The Rice-Sanders rivalry is among several moves the league is using to try to rekindle interest in the Pro Bowl, set for Sunday in Hawaii. The game has been criticized as too lax in recent years by fans and also commissioner Roger Goodell, putting the future of the event in question.
The biggest change — a two-day draft Tuesday and Wednesday that will determine teams in a new “unconferenced” game — responds by targeting player egos and fan love for fantasy football.
Ex-Seahawk Rice and Sanders will make choices that reveal the players they believe to be the best among the best.
“You want to embrace good-natured ribbing and chop busting,” said Mike Muriano, senior coordinating producer at NFL Network, which is running the draft.
The league was announcing replacements throughout Monday for players missing the game because of injury or the Super Bowl.
With the Seahawks facing Denver in the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch, center Max Unger, safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman were among those replaced.
Andrew Luck of Indianapolis will take Wilson’s place; Alfred Morris of Washington will take over for Lynch; Nick Mangold of the New York Jets will replace Unger; Antrel Rolle of the New York Giants will replace Thomas; and Tim Jennings of Chicago will fill in for Sherman.
Titans hire Horton
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt’s defensive staff has a Cleveland flavor.
Whisenhunt continued putting together his staff by announcing the hiring of defensive coordinator Ray Horton and defensive-backs coach Louie Cioffi, who each filled the same roles this season in Cleveland. The Browns fired coach Rob Chudzinski after the season.
Horton, 53, is a former standout cornerback for the Washington Huskies.
During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Horton was defensive coordinator and Cioffi was defensive-backs coach in Arizona while Whisenhunt was the Cardinals’ coach.
“I am excited about this opportunity, to be reunited with Coach Whisenhunt and to be a piece of the puzzle to move this team forward,” Horton said in a release announcing the move.
The Browns allowed the third-fewest yards per pass attempt in the league this season and ranked ninth in the NFL in total defense, up from 23rd a year earlier.
“Scheme-wise, one of the most impressive things about Ray is his flexibility,” Whisenhunt said. “He has the ability to go between a 4-3 and 3-4 and put our players in the best position to succeed.”