Pro Football Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin — NFL National Conference Call — Pro Bowl Alumni Captains Announced

On how playing in past Pro Bowls will compare to being a captain in the upcoming Pro Bowl and what strategy they will use to draft players:

Cris Carter: It’s a great honor to be associated with the National Football League. For them to give us the responsibility with their best players [is great]. Michael and I go back a long way and we have a lot of years that we made the Pro Bowl together. And if he wasn’t playing when I was playing, I would have made more. And vice versa.

We always took it seriously. I think there is some type of strategy to it. Number one is it is a competitive game. You can see that in last year’s game.

And if guys are a little bit older in the tooth and everything, sometimes they might not want to participate in the Pro Bowl like the young guys so I might take that into consideration when I’m drafting guys, because guys who make it their first or second year — they have a lot more excitement. So I’m not going to bring in my total strategy, but that might partake in it — a guy’s age.

Michael Irvin: Yes, and I think he might of just given up too much right there.

The older guys are saying, you know, “Hey, we’re going to chill. We’re going to chill.” My thoughts were, “No, I can’t chill, I have to show people that I’m ready to play.”

But I also remember all of the older guys that say, “Hey, we’re going to chill. We’re going to chill.” That was just rhetoric. They came out playing when it was time, and especially in that fourth quarter. So you want to consider all of those things. But what Cris also points to is we add five or six guys each year that I said, “All right, I’m out to beat him, beat him, and beat him. Make sure I’m in the Pro Bowl.”

We had five guys in the NFC that I’m worried about. Now [the new format] opens it up because it may have been a one time the shot in the NFC. I like this format because it gives you an opportunity now at your division. Like we were with Cris Carter, Jerry Rice, myself, Herman Moore, Andre Rison. It gives you an opportunity now to measure up against the AFC guys and still get in.

Carter: And the hardest strategy is that the draft, there are going to be the wide receivers who we have to pick – because they’re going to take it personally if we don’t draft them.

Irvin: And that’s what’s going to make it fun also.

On the Pro Bowl being played in Arizona instead on Hawaii:

Irvin: Well, one of the things I’ve always said, even when we were playing the Pro Bowl over in Hawaii, is that that I would have loved to have had an opportunity to play a Pro Bowl in the states. I covered the one that we did in Miami. I saw the excitement around that. We were practicing at an old high school. You saw people – these are the various best all in one place. And you don’t get that often.

The people are great in Hawaii. But there are a lot of people [in the states] that are absolute diehard, supporting fans that can’t afford to go to Hawaii. Now we get a chance to bring it back here and say, “Hey, here’s a collection of the greatest players in the league this season, and you have an opportunity to be this close to all of them at one time.” I really do appreciate it. I always wanted to play a Pro Bowl in the states when we were in those Pro Bowls. We appreciate Hawaii. But we’ll get a chance now to be with the fans that have earned the right to be around those guys.

Carter: Well I think that Arizona and in that region, they’re able to take advantage of a very, very rare moment. The National Football League is at an all-time high as far as popularity. And they’re going to have all the eyeballs of the world on Arizona — not only for one week, but for two weeks. The momentum coming off the NFC Championship game and the AFC championship game Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening.

And then that Monday, we’re going to be starting a Pro Bowl week in Arizona. So it’s going to be unbelievable — the experience. And sometimes you can’t partake in the Super Bowl, or go to Hawaii but you can partake in the Pro Bowl week. And you’re going to see a lot of the same guys that are going to be there. You know, give them the great chance to be in that Super Bowl city for two weeks.

We know we’re going to have great weather. The game’s got perfect conditions — as far as the stadium and the venue. And the Cardinals’ fans, the organization has really turned it around. I think the overall opinion of the organization has changed. And it’s nice to be able to see big events awarded to people that did have stuck in there with their teams.

On what things have helped make the Pro Bowl more interesting in recent years:

Carter:  Well, I think that when you look at the product in the National Football League, we didn’t like what we were seeing at the end of the season before the rule changes. NFL games are too good.

It’s a player’s game. It’s really up to the players. It adds a lot of high speed “No AFC, no NFC.” You can really garnish some friendships with some players that you would never get an opportunity to play with or play beside. And part of my strategy is that I’m going to let some of the leaders in the league help me with some of the draft. Let me know some of the players they want to play with. I’m going to make that available. You see that Michael? I know you’re going to try to steal that too.

Irvin: Yes, and the good thing the NFL has done, and I absolutely love guys, is they have all treated it now where you’re playing those division games to end up.

And then, after we just swapped spit, chopping each other out, and now I’ve got to all of sudden become your teammate in the Pro Bowl. Now it’s not necessarily the case. I could just brush you up and in the last few games they’ve got to worry about it. I may be with an AFC guy. It’s just a great, great experience.

It really is a great mixture. Opens everything up to everybody. There are guys that I used to watch in the AFC play with that guy. And I never could play with those guys because we were in different divisions and I know his team would never let him go or certainly, my team wouldn’t let me go. Now you get that opportunity.

We’re football players, but we are fans too. And there are people that we would say, “Man, I wonder what it’s like playing with that guy.” And he was in another division, so you never had the opportunity to play together. I think that’s a fun thing for young men now.

On whether they have a role in promoting the Pro Bowl leading up to the game:

Irvin: There’s a natural competition that we have throughout the season [working for different networks] and as we get ready and prepare for the Pro Bowl. We’re great friends. We’ve been in the meetings forever together. We talked about it even before we came in this league.

We’ve been blessed enough to accomplish some of those things to the degree that we enjoy this. It is a blessing that none of us planned on, and I thank God for this chance to get back involved with the Pro Bowl in a coaching fashion and around the same guys that we get a chance to analyze and watch all season long.

Carter: I’m looking forward to the game. It’s beyond saying you appreciate it. The ability for us to be 14 years out the game and still be relevant in the National Football League, anytime that they would put you closer to players, there must be really a great deal of trust there.

I tell people I haven’t had a real job. I’ve never filled out an application. Everything I’ve ever done since college has been with the National Football League. And now being with the Pro Bowl, with the best players, the crème de la crème, you know, that is – what it’s really about.

And be able to stay relevant. And reach out and touch the guys. To see if the guy really is 6’5”, or is he about 6’3”? But I’m also looking to see their natural energy. It’s also a celebration of the great season that they had. It’s not about me or Michael. It’s about them and celebrating them because getting in the Pro Bowl is an honor. You are one of the best football players in the world. Michael and I are appreciative that we can be the captains on either side. And once they toss it out there, we’re competitors. We’re trying to win.

On their favorite Pro Bowl memories:

Irvin: My first Pro Bowl has my favorite memory because I remember “Receiver of the Year” that year and going to the Pro Bowl. Jerry Rice walked up to me, and he walked up behind me and said, “Hey Irv.” And I heard him. And I knew it was him, but I just wanted to hear him to say it again. I acted like I didn’t hear.

Carter: I remember getting into my first Pro Bowl — Shannon Sharpe when he hurt his neck. That’s how I got in my first Pro Bowl. And I joined Andre Rison, Michael Irvin, and Jerry Rice. I remember them in the locker room arguing over who was the best. And they actually asked me my opinion.

I remember telling them, I made the Pro Bowl with Jim McMahon. Normally, I’ll do that. I’m better than all you all. That’s one of my fondest memories. And then also, the practices — Jerry, myself, and Michael. And then when Deion was in the Pro Bowl — the competition was against Deion, but also Jerry, and myself, and Michael looking at each other’s routes and really trying to learn something and talk about receiving and trying to look at doing things a little different way. Those are the things that I really remember even more than the game — especially that first conversation with those three clowns.

Irvin: That’s funny Cris. That is funny.

On the first cornerback that should be selected in the Pro Bowl:

Irvin: That’s a good question. I want to look at what kind of defense that I plan on running. You know, we have such great defensive backs in the league.

So, Richard Sherman. I love Richie Sherman. I love guys that can cover, but I love guys that make guys around them play much better. And I believe that’s what Richie Sherman does in Seattle. He’s a good cover man. His personality makes guys around him play better. I love that.

Carter:  I’m going to go watch the season and whoever I feel like played it the best — between Revis or Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. But I’m going to tell you who has the best season, and then I will make the determination between those. And if I had to pick Joe Haden, I wouldn’t be upset at all either.

Irvin: You’re going to have an offense that is going to have to play some catch up. So I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with that too.

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