*Mike Flanagan's first Pro Bowl trip was one for the ages.
Despite trailing by 18 points with just 13 minutes left, the NFC all-stars -- including Flanagan, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, running back Ahman Green, tight end Bubba Franks and right guard Marco Rivera -- rallied to beat the AFC all-stars 55-52 in what was the highest-scoring Pro Bowl ever.
Originally slated to be an alternate for the event, Flanagan joined Minnesota Vikings center Matt Birk in Hawaii after Olin Kreutz of the Chicago Bears pulled out due to injury.
Now back in his offseason home of Las Vegas, Flanagan checked in with Packers.com to describe his experience playing in last weekend's game as he wrapped up his Pro Bowl diary.*
Pro Bowl Diary, Part IV - February 12, 2004
I'd been told that the Pro Bowl doesn't really get heated until the fourth quarter. Well, this year we got things going a little early, but the fourth quarter was still something else.
The fans at Aloha Stadium are there for the big play. The last thing they want to see is a defensive match-up and they certainly didn't get one last weekend.
From the game's opening play, a 90-yard bomb from Steve McNair to Chad Johnson, the game was a shootout. When the dust settled, it was the NFC on top 55-52.
I'm not sure if it was the group of players on the NFC team or if it filtered down from Andy Reid at the top, but when the AFC jumped out early, there really wasn't any panic on the NFC sideline. We knew we had the offensive firepower to respond.
Of course we were also relaxed because the Pro Bowl is about as loose as football gets. Even as we went to take the field that day, Coach Reid looked at everyone and said, 'Let's just have fun out there.'
The intensity is down because none of the players have very much invested in the outcome. We're there as a reward for the previous season, and we're there to have a good time.
But that doesn't mean that when we're on the field we're going easy. You just can't play football that way or else you get hurt.
And besides, as NFL players we have pretty big egos. None of us want to get beat and look bad. And if you're a competitor, there's just no way you can have fun without trying to win. For us, winning is everything.
So from the snap of the ball to the end of the play, we were going hard. The difference is that in a real game we play through the whistle. In the Pro Bowl you just play to the whistle, and you don't do all that other stuff like chase down the field after plays and dive on piles or cut block or things like that.
It's a mutual thing. You don't do it to the opposing players and you expect them to give you the same respect and not do any of that extra stuff to you.
As of my last installment, we were only supposed to have four Packers in the Pro Bowl, but when they sent Simeon Rice home that meant Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila got moved up from his alternate spot.
The second I heard Kabeer was going to be playing I called up Baltimore Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden and told him, 'Your vacation is over, because Kabeer only knows one speed and that's 400 miles per hour.'
I told Ogden that he'd give up at least one sack to Kabeer but he didn't believe me. Of course, Kabeer ended up getting two sacks, and I can tell you that Ogden was pretty upset when KGB got by him, so don't think the players don't care out there.
As for my performance in the game, not only did I line up at center but I also got enlisted as the long snapper. It's something I'd never done before and something I won't do again! I'm pretty terrible at it...I'm just a better long snapper than Matt Birk.
I did okay, I guess. We had one punt blocked, but that wasn't my fault. Still, it's pretty low pressure when the other team isn't bringing a rush on the punts and field goal attempts.
Playing in the Pro Bowl was something new, but to be honest the talent out there didn't seem much different from what I see every day. I mean, our offensive line goes up against Kabeer in practice every day. I line up next to Marco. I block for Ahman. I snap the ball to Brett. And all those guys are Pro Bowlers.
But it was great to get a chance to meet some of the players and get to know them personally.
I'm glad to have experienced the Pro Bowl and I'd love to go again, but more than that I'd like to see some of the other deserving guys go who haven't had the chance. Mike Wahle, for instance, really deserves to be in a Pro Bowl.
I know Mike and I aren't competing for votes at the same position, but I'd rather see him get to go to a Pro Bowl than go again myself. I figure that every player who builds a long career has to have at least one Pro Bowl season to last that long, but the majority of the players don't get the chance to experience it and that's a shame.
When I look back on this experience, I think I'm going to remember the time with my family and friends more than the game itself.
I had my parents there and my sister, friends from Green Bay, friends from Las Vegas.
It's rare that I can get that whole big group together to meet one another and enjoy one another's company all at once. But we were able to do that in Hawaii.
It's nice to be able to have a Pro Bowl on my resume, but it means more to have had the experience.