Photos from the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.
When Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David was chosen by Team Irvin in the 2016 Pro Bowl Draft and Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin was selected by Team Rice, it set up the very real possibility of some Buccaneer-on-Buccaneer violence. As it turned out, David and Martin ran into each other on the very first play that both Bucs were on the field Sunday.
After the two teams traded touchdowns on their respective opening drives, Martin and David came in for the start of Team Rice's second possession. On first down, Giants QB Eli Manning handed off to Martin, who started right, cut up through a seam and found himself facing David. The latter wrapped the former up in a secure embrace, which is how most of Sunday's tackles ended.
David enjoyed watching Martin's NFL-high 13 runs of 20 or more yards this past season, but he couldn't let him add another one against his team in the Pro Bowl.
"In that situation, I had to [stop him]," said David with a smile after the game. "If I would have missed him it would have made me look bad, so I just made sure I made a good tackle. I just wrapped him up and he said, 'Don't slam me, don't slam me.'"
Martin acquitted himself just fine in the Pro Bowl, with 20 yards and a touchdown on the ground and a game-high five receptions. However, another run-in with David ended up being a significant play in the flow of the game.
Two snaps after that first-down run, Martin left the backfield and was targeted by Manning on a short pass to the left side. The pass was a little behind Martin, and as he twisted to try to haul it in, David arrived and the resulting collision deflected the ball up and back, where it was intercepted by Dallas linebacker Sean Lee. That led to a 28-yard touchdown drive (and two-point conversion) that put Team Irvin up, 14-7. They would never trail again.
"I made the hit and Sean Lee made a nice play on the ball and that really helped us get the ball rolling," said David. "We were just trying to be aggressive out there and make plays."
READ: SCENES FROM OAHU
Indeed, that was the first of six interceptions by the Irvin defense, which likely was the difference in the 49-27 final score. It's not like either team had difficult moving the ball, with 503 yards for Team Irvin to 457 for Team Rice. The half-dozen picks by David's side helped set up several scores and prevent a couple others. Those six interceptions were snared by five different players (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two), which is not surprising given the liberal substitutions throughout the game. David played extensively but he's used to being on the field for every defensive snap, so that was a bit of an unusual experience for him in his first Pro Bowl.
"It is kind of weird going in for a series, coming out for another series," said David. "But I made the most of my team on the field."
What was not unusual for David was rooting on Jameis Winston when he was on the sideline while his team's offense performed. Winston entered the game in the third quarter after Russell Wilson and Teddy Bridgewater had their turns and he completed six of 11 passes for 113 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Team Irvin already had a two-touchdown lead when Winston came into the game, but that can evaporate quickly in a Pro Bowl. Instead, Winston's two TD passes helped his side when by three scores.
"Jameis is a competitor, man," said David. "He wanted to come out here and win; that's just how he is. He came in here and got some touchdowns and helped us get a victory."