Young, Aikman Join Forces in Pro Bowl
HONOLULU (AP) _ Now the 49ers and Cowboys get to gang up on the AFC.
Generally conceded to be the NFL’s two best teams, San Francisco and Dallas also dominate the NFC roster for Sunday’s Pro Bowl.
That presents scenarios such as the 49ers’ Steve Young heading off to the NFC bench and the AFC defense sighing a sigh of relief, only to see the Cowboys’ Troy Aikman trot on to replace him.
``It’s a great team,″ said coach Barry Switzer, who along with his Dallas assistants comprise the NFC staff. ``But of course the AFC also has a great team.″
Dallas will have the most players in the game, 10. Eleven Cowboys were voted onto the all-star squad, but running back Emmitt Smith isn’t playing because of an injury.
The 49ers had nine players selected in the three-way balloting by fans and the league’s coaches and players. Young, however, lost his favorite target and the NFC lost its top wide receiver when Jerry Rice, who would have been making his ninth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, had to pull out because of a slight separation in his left shoulder.
Other 49ers in the starting lineup for the 25th renewal of the Pro Bowl are tight end Brent Jones, cornerback Deion Sanders and free safety Merton Hanks.
Dallas’ starters on offense are fullback Daryl Johnston, tight end Jay Novacek, center John Stepnoski and guard Nate Newton. Cowboys slated to open on defense are end Charles Haley, tackle Leon Lett and safety Darren Woodson. Wide receiver Michael Irvin, voted into the game as a reserve, also will start because of injuries to Rice and Sterling Sharpe of Green Bay.
The Dallas-San Francisco combine gives Mark Tuinei, an 11-year NFL veteran tackle with the Cowboys who’ll be appearing in his first Pro Bowl, an opportunity to line up alongside an old teammate at the University of Hawaii, 49ers’ guard Jesse Sapolu, who is in the all-star game for the second consecutive year.
``It’s going to be a lot more fun than at UH. Then I was a defensive tackle and had to go against him in practice,″ Tuinei said.
Despite the presence of the high-powered stars from the 49ers and Cowboys on the NFC side, the AFC, which hasn’t won a Super Bowl since the Los Angeles Raiders did it in 1984, actually has matched up fairly well with the NFC in the Pro Bowl over that same span.
The AFC has won five of the last 11 games, although the NFC won 17-3 a year ago and leads the series 14-10.
Bill Cowher, like Switzer, is making his Pro Bowl debut, and his Pittsburgh staff are the AFC coaches.
The AFC quarterback corps will counter the NFC trio of Young, Aikman and Warren Moon of Minnesota with an impressive threesome of its own _ Denver’s John Elway, New England’s Drew Bledsoe and the Los Angeles Raiders’ Jeff Hostetler. Miami’s Dan Marino was voted in as the starter, but Marino is ailing and can’t play and Hostetler replaced him on the roster.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to San Diego in the AFC title game, had six players voted into the Pro Bowl, most for the conference. Pittsburgh starters will be cornerback Rod Woodson, linebacker Greg Lloyd and center Dermontti Dawson.
Although they won the AFC title, the Chargers had just four players named to the all-star squad, with linebacker Junior Seau, running back Natrone Means and defensive end Leslie O’Neal scheduled to start.
There’s not much tangible at stake in the game; most of the all-stars play for considerably less than they get paid for a regular-season contest. The Pro Bowl winners get $20,000 each and the losers $10,000. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the game isn’t competitive.
``It’s a fun week and a fun game, although everybody here is a competitor and when they get out there, they turn it on,″ said the 49ers’ Jones, appearing in his third consecutive Pro Bowl.
Hostetler, who’ll make the first Pro Bowl appearance of his 11-year career, said, ``The game should be a fun experience. A lot of guys who’ve spent years getting in my face will be cheering for me since we’re on the same team for once.″
The kickoff is 6 p.m. EST at Aloha Stadium. The game has been sold out, 50,113 seats, for more than a month, marking the 16th straight Pro Bowl sellout.
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