The Pro Bowl, previously canceled by the NFL due to the coronavirus pandemic, is back on — albeit with a major twist.
The game will be conducted virtually using the Madden NFL 21 video game.
Gamemaker EA Sports will team up with the NFL to set up a week of matchups with celebrities, former NFL stars, current NFL players, and popular streamers competing with the 2021 Pro Bowl rosters. The week’s culmination will be the virtual Pro Bowl, with active players who were selected to the team competing against each other.
“Even amidst unparalleled change across the sports industry, we are excited to transition many of the signature components of the Pro Bowl — which will go virtual in Madden NFL 21 — into a new innovative experience for our players and fans,” NFL executive vice president of club business and events Peter O’Reilly said in a statement. “We remain committed to using our Pro Bowl platform to empower fans to virtually celebrate the best players in the game.”
Electronic Arts executive vice president of marketing, commercial & positive play Chris Bruzzo added in a statement, “We are transforming the Pro Bowl for fans everywhere and bringing another amazing NFL experience to life in the way only Madden NFL can. We’re excited to work closely with the NFL, our long-time partner, to move the Pro Bowl to the virtual fields of Madden NFL and be part of the first high-profile sporting event to go virtual. Our community is hungry for more interactive experiences, so we are always working to create more opportunities to bring them closer to the sports they love.”
Pro Bowl balloting started Tuesday at NFL.com/ProBowlVote and will continue through Dec. 17. Voting will also be allowed through Madden NFL 21 Mobile and Madden NFL 21 on consoles, and Twitter votes will be accepted Dec. 1-17 using #ProBowlVote.
On Dec. 18, NFL players and coaches will cast their Pro Bowl ballots. The voting will be weighed evenly between fan ballots, player ballots, and coach ballots, with 44 players getting selected from each conference.
The Pro Bowl originally was scheduled for Jan. 31 in Las Vegas, ahead of Super Bowl LV in Tampa on Feb. 7.