HONOLULU (AP) — Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice says he has a draft strategy mapped out for picking his Pro Bowl squad and wants quarterback Peyton Manning and linebacker Robert Mathis on his side.
Rice told reporters Monday he plans to take a balanced approach to selecting his players for the Jan. 26 game and expects rival alumni captain Deion Sanders to focus on defense.
“I can tell Deion is afraid of me,” said Rice, taking a light swipe at Sanders for being unable to make a conference call to discuss their role in the game because of travel complications.
As alumni captains, Sanders and Rice have final say on the selections for each of the Pro Bowl teams. The two-day draft is a departure from the game’s traditional AFC vs. NFC format, with a schoolyard-style selection process modified with several twists.
Rice said he most likely plans to take skill position players in the early rounds — selecting from among quarterbacks, wide receivers and perhaps running backs — but keep things balanced with defense.
“For me it has to be 50-50 and I believe you win with defense,” Rice said. “And some of these guys that are really making statements right now like Robert Mathis, Robert Quinn, Mario Williams, all these guys ... I’m thinking defense.”
Manning and Mathis are in the running to be active player captains based on voting by fans. The top vote-getter on offense will be paired with the second-highest defensive pick and the top defensive pick with the second-highest offensive selection.
When Rice and Sanders arrive in Hawaii, they’ll flip a coin with the winner deciding whether they want to pick their pair of captains or have first pick among the rest of the 88 Pro Bowlers.
The rest of the draft will play out over two days, with 30 players on each team picked during a three-hour live draft Jan. 22. Each team will select a third quarterback in the last round and the team that picks second will be allowed to force a trade on the other team after the draft ends.