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Tropical paradise

Young players highlight season-ending Pro Bowl

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Posted: Saturday February 05, 2000 04:27 PM

  Peyton Manning Colts quarterback Peyton Manning leads an AFC squad that includes 18 Pro Bowl rookies. AP

HONOLULU (AP) -- The changing face of the NFL is evident at the 50th annual Pro Bowl.

With 41 players making their first appearances in Sunday's game at Aloha Stadium, attention focused on the rising number of young stars and the fading away of some of the game's most recognizable names.

Thirty first-timers and half of the 86 players in the game have played in the NFL five seasons or less, and their presence among the league's elite is energizing the game.

"I think there is a changing of the guard. There are a lot of new exciting players coming into the league," said Minnesota Vikings guard Randall McDaniel, making his record 11th consecutive Pro Bowl start.

"This is the biggest change I've seen over here, and it's good for the game. But they still a got a few spots for the older guys to slip in, just to remind them what happened before."

With greats like Steve Young, Bruce Smith, Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin and Dan Marino not playing this year, attention turned to rising stars like Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James of Indianapolis, Jevon Kearse of Tennessee and Randy Moss of Minnesota.

"New guys are coming in, stepping up to play and carrying on the tradition," said Baltimore Ravens third-year linebacker Peter Boulware, in his second Pro Bowl.

Grooming new stars and watching them blossom is all part of the process and great for the league, said Jacksonville safety Carnell Lake, an 11-year vet playing in his fifth Pro Bowl.

"Eventually you're going to have young talent come in and make their mark, and they're doing that now," Lake said. "Every year, there are new fans in the NFL and the younger fans, the real young ones, followed these younger players in college and now they want to follow them in the NFL."

St. Louis Rams cornerback Todd Lyght said the changes extend beyond the players chosen for the Pro Bowl, to the shifting of power within the league itself. Teams like the Rams and Titans making it to the Super Bowl reflect the same change as the replacing of older stars with younger ones.

"Tennessee being there for the first time and us being there for the first time in 20 years, I think that there's a changing of the guard in the NFL for sure," said Lyght, playing in his first Pro Bowl.

His Rams teammate, defensive lineman D'Marco Farr, also in his first Pro Bowl, said the younger players just had to show their mettle and prove they could play.

"Some of the younger guys are tired of being beat up by the older guys, so they're playing better," Farr said.

Tennessee tight end Frank Wycheck, playing in his second Pro Bowl, explained the change, citing teammate Bruce Matthews, the 17-year offensive lineman playing in his 11th Pro Bowl.

"Just talking to Bruce, he used to be with the same guys year in and year out. Now he hardly knows any of the guys," Wycheck said. "There's a lot of young talented players in this league that are getting recognized and that's the way it's supposed to be. The other guys aren't going to play forever."

Tampa Bay defensive lineman Warren Sapp summed up the changes by saying: "A lot more players are playing better in this league and old heads are old heads now."

Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys couldn't understand the fuss.

"There's always a changing of the guard, so what's your point?" he asked.

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