The NFL has decided to add return specialists to the Pro Bowl in 2014, expanding rosters from 86 to 88 players. It is the second expansion of the Pro Bowl rosters after they expanded the number of cornerbacks from six to eight in August. The NFL said that the addition of return specialists will not impact the additional cornerbacks.
“Based on our ongoing conversations with the NFL Players Association, we both agreed it would be best to keep return specialists on our Pro Bowl ballot,” says Ray Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations. “The focus of these discussions has been to enhance the Pro Bowl experience for players and fans. Keeping our most exciting punt-return specialists involved in the game while providing more roster flexibility on defense will aid that effort.”
NFL players have been clamoring for the Pro Bowl to be expanded to include players that specialize on return plays. Chicago Bears receiver Devin Hester made a name for himself returning kick offs and there are plenty of players around the league who primarily make an impact on return plays. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris, for instance, helped the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Sunday Night Football despite not catching a pass.
Harris did return a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and later a kick-off for 90 yards before being tackled short of the end zone. That play set up a Tony Romo touchdown pass. All in all, Harris returned 4 punts and kicks for a total of 222 yards. Harris single-handedly out-gained the entire Cowboys offense, which only managed 213 yards.