NEW YORK -- Have NFL fans seen the last of the Pro Bowl?
The game could be suspended next year, two people familiar with discussions said Thursday.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, among others, expressed concerns about the quality of play after January's game, and the league has been holding talks with the players' union about the future of the all-star game. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were not being publicized.
Responding to an ESPN report that Goodell is "strongly considering" suspending the game in 2013, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: "No determination has been made yet."
Goodell said before the Super Bowl in February he was unhappy with what he saw in the AFC's 59-41 win in the Pro Bowl at Honolulu -- a game that often resembled touch football. Many players chosen for the game bow out, and if the Pro Bowl is held before the Super Bowl, as it was during the past three years, players from the conference champions don't participate.
The game still draws solid TV ratings, but isn't considered a money maker. Although viewership dropped 8.1 percent in January, the Pro Bowl still was the highest-rated sports program of the weekend.
The big factor is cost, particularly when played in Hawaii. And with so many defections-- there were 20 replacements for non-participating players in 2012, including Pro Bowlers from the Giants and Patriots who were occupied with the Super Bowl -- it raises the question of whether the game is still special.
Newly elected NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth tweeted Thursday: "The Pro Bowl is an important tradition we are in talks with the league to improve and preserve the game for our players and fans"
Hawaii began hosting the game in 1980 and it was held there annually until 2010, when it moved to Miami and was played the week before the Super Bowl there. Before moving it, the NFL said there was a need for a more modern stadium in Hawaii.
The game returned to Hawaii in 2011, but now the site -- and the very existence -- of next year's game is up in the air.
"We have had lots of talks with the players about the Pro Bowl," NFL counsel Jeff Pash said last week. "When should it be played? Where? And certainly the quality of the game.
"We understand what contributes to the low quality of the game. It does not mean very much either financially or competitively. Players are reluctant to participate in a way that they could be injured. It's not going to ever look like a playoff game, but it needs to improve so fans don't say, `I feel bad watching it.' "