Football

Pro Bowl tickets hot, enthusiasm still lukewarm

Chad Ochocinco took a snap and tested his punting leg, then later tried out as TV commentator while his opponents practiced.

The NFC all-star defense lined up with three No. 90s side by side — Carolina’s Julius Peppers, Arizona’s Darnell Dockett and Dallas’ Jay Ratliff.

Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb pumped his fist in mock celebration when he completed a short pass to an unguarded receiver.

“Ah, that was awesome right there! Woo!” McNabb shouted.

The Pro Bowl’s always a little different, even at practice. And this year’s game is different from other Pro Bowls.

NFL all-stars held their first workouts Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in preparation for Sunday’s showcase, which has a new venue and a new place on the league calendar.

As a one-year experiment, the game has been moved to Miami from Honolulu, its home since 1980. And for the first time, it’s being played the week before the Super Bowl instead of in its customary slot the week after the NFL’s title game.

The switches paid off in ticket sales. The league expects a sellout, and the crowd of more than 70,000 will be the largest for a Pro Bowl since 1959 in Los Angeles.

One thing hasn’t changed: Enthusiasm for participating remains lukewarm. More than a dozen players turned down the chance to play, citing injury. In addition, the Colts and Saints won’t be represented because they’re preparing for next week’s Super Bowl, also in Miami.

As a result, 31 of the 87 Pro Bowl players are replacing those selected earlier, and the defections keep coming.

“It’s unfortunate it has to be before the Super Bowl,” McNabb said. “It doesn’t do any justice for the guys who are playing in the Super Bowl game. But all of us who are here would love to be playing next week.”

Warner’s decision due

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner will hold a news conference Friday to announce whether he will retire from the game, his agent said.

Agent Mark Bartelstein said the announcement will be made at the Cardinals training facility in Tempe. Bartelstein declined to reveal Warner’s decision.

Extra points

Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Tommie Boyd faces another criminal sexual conduct charge after authorities say the high school track coach had sexual contact with a third teenage student in Roseville, Mich. ... Browns president Mike Holmgren hired Mark Schiefelbein away from Green Bay as Cleveland’s vice president of football operations. ... Georgia Tech recruiting coordinator Giff Smith is taking a job as outside linebackers coach for the Buffalo Bills a week before national signing day. Bills coach Chan Gailey, Georgia Tech’s coach from 2002-07, said Curtis Modkins will be his offensive coordinator and running backs coach, Bob Bicknell the tight ends coach, Joe D’Alessandris the offensive line coach and Kevin Patullo the offensive quality control coach. ... Robert Nunn has been hired to coach the New York Giants’ defensive line. ... The Jacksonville Jaguars fired defensive line coach Ted Monachino and replaced him with Idaho State assistant Joe Cullen. While an assistant with the Lions in 2006, Cullen was charged with indecent and obscene conduct after going through a restaurant’s drive-through lane naked.

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