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Players prefer the league's all-star game to stay in Hawaii

Associated Press

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- As Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis casually chatted at their posh oceanside resort, the discussion quickly turned to how much they'll miss Hawaii.

The Pro Bowl is bidding aloha to the islands after Sunday's game following a 30-year run. Next year's Pro Bowl will be played in Miami one week before the Super Bowl. The location after that remains uncertain.

One thing is clear: Many of the NFL's top stars are unsure about the Pro Bowl being shipped to the mainland.

"I just think you take away from everything the Pro Bowl means," Lewis said Tuesday. "I don't understand it all."

The Baltimore Ravens' linebacker, who played college football at the University of Miami, said he would "probably not" play next year's game if selected.

Lewis, who's making his 10th Pro Bowl trip, said many players live in or visit Florida often, so playing there wouldn't necessarily be a reward.

Setting the scene
The Kapolei High School practice field's pristine look didn't take long to come unraveled as the Pro Bowl teams prepared for Sunday's game by getting in a quick workout. More ...

"That's no vacation," Lewis said. "That's what we regularly do. You don't want to go to the Pro Bowl and do what you regularly do. You want to come over and do something different. You want to tour the islands and bring the kids over here to see something different."

The NFL has been looking to increase the profile of the game. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had called the Pro Bowl "a somewhat anticlimactic" ending to the season.

Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said all the players love coming to Hawaii.

"When you think of the Pro Bowl, you think of Hawaii," he said. "But then again, it's a change that was made, and all you can do is roll with it."

The Pro Bowl could end up rotating between Hawaii and the mainland.

The state has paid the NFL an average of $4 million annually under their expiring five-year contract to host the game. The Hawaii Tourism Authority and the NFL are in negotiations for Honolulu to host future games.

The Pro Bowl hasn't been played on the mainland since the 1979 game in Los Angeles, where Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Ahmad Rashad was the game's MVP.

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, another University of Miami standout, said there's no question where the players would rather end the year.

"This place is much better," he said. "You can go to Miami all the time."

In Hawaii, the players and their families stay at a secluded hotel on the Leeward Coast of Oahu, an hour's drive away from the bustle of Waikiki. After practice, they lounge by the pool, swim in the lagoons or go next door to play 18 holes of golf.

Portis said in Miami, "there's too much to get into," especially with places such as South Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

"There's going to be people getting DUIs, people getting suspended, so I think coming out here is much nicer," he said. "(Being in Miami), I don't think it will have the same feel. They don't have any leis in Miami. They don't have flower shorts to walk around in."

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Some players believe the Pro Bowl could lose some luster by not having Super Bowl players participating, since they'll be busy preparing for the big game.

"It would be interesting to see how many people actually go and participate in Miami next year," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "For me, I like coming over here."

Manning said one of the best weeks of his life was coming to Hawaii after leading the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl win in 2006.

"There's no better week to be over here than after you won a Super Bowl," he said.

The nine-time Pro Bowl selection said swapping weeks and cities are like changing coaches.

"If something is good, why do you want to change it?" he said. "I don't know what the economic factors are that come into play, but I know the times I've come over here, it's a special week."

Manning said tropical Miami is one thing, but he's curious about 2012 when his city hosts the Super Bowl.

"I'm not sure that's necessarily a reward to come to Indianapolis in February," he said.

Whatever city the Pro Bowl is in, Manning said he'll play. And he hopes to make it three years from now.

"I would almost be out of eligibility. That's getting up there for me," he said, jokingly.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press