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Pro Bowl Notebook: Jason Kelce pulls for younger brother in Super Bowl; Lane Johnson eyes return to title game next season

For fans, most of the discussion surrounding the Pro Bowl is about who got snubbed in the voting and the game itself, which has its entertaining moments despite the lack of physicality that comes with a normal football contest.

But believe it or not, the Pro Bowl brings a lot more to the table for the players.

For the Eagles' quartet of all-stars in attendance – Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, and Rick Lovato – the 2020 Pro Bowl in Orlando was a chance to be part of a congregation of the game's best, where relationships are formed and memories are created.

Just being in Orlando was a memorable experience for Lovato, who received the honor for the first time. Lovato's selection made him part of the first pair of long snappers – the other being Baltimore's Morgan Cox – to be voted into the Pro Bowl by specialists and special team coordinators.

"I was so brought back," Lovato said about being voted in by his peers. "It was truly incredible to be picked by these guys."

Being in the Pro Bowl meant that Lovato's peers now include the game's biggest names like Lamar Jackson and Drew Brees. Every practice was a chance for him to see just how far he had come from working in his parents' restaurant in his hometown of Middletown, New Jersey.

He wasn't in Middletown anymore. He was in the vicinity of the most magical place on earth, surrounded by the game's greatest from the past and present.

"It's just so cool. I'm just trying to take it all in, get videos of all the guys," Lovato said. "Seeing all of these Hall of Famers just walking around here, I'm like, 'I get to be a part of this.' This is still such a shock to me."

Cox, Kelce, and Johnson are among the current greats who Lovato is proud to be a part of, as the trio has been selected to the Pro Bowl a combined 11 times, including five in a row for Cox and three in a row for Johnson.

The veteran trio may have been there and done that when it comes to the Pro Bowl, but the game is still a chance to have a meeting of the minds with some of the NFL's best.

"You get to hang out with all of the great players in the league," Cox said. "You come out here, you hang out, and you pick brains; ask them how they do it play after play after play and you kind of understand why they do things. I've had a couple of players ask me how I do things and what's the reason behind it."

There is some exchanging of trade secrets, but a lot of the conversations involve the players getting to know each other better on a personal level.

"You're excited to just meet and see a lot of guys that you've played against and opponents that you respect a heck of a lot, and all of a sudden, you become teammates for a week," Kelce said.

"Guys like Jaylon Smith, who I get to go up against all the time from Dallas. Eric Kendricks, who obviously I've played him quite bit in Minnesota and I've gotten to play with his brother (Mychal Kendricks). And all of the offensive line guys like Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith. You get to meet people, pick their brains, and really find out about who they are. It's a fun week."

But there is another part of Pro Bowl that is just as important as any other. It is the part that lasts a lot longer than the game or anything the players may learn from one another. It is the players getting to spend quality time with their families.

"It's a year-round deal as far as football is concerned because whenever the season is over you get a couple of months to kind of relax and see your family. Then, it's back to OTAs and training," Johnson said. "I don't get to see the family much. Getting those guys down here, my mom and dad, to spend time with them that I don't usually get is a blessing. It's a lot of fun."

For Kelce, it was his first time at the Pro Bowl since his wife Kylie gave birth to their daughter Wyatt back in October of 2019. After every practice, Kelce routinely walked around the field with baby Wyatt in his arms.

"It's always fun having the family here," Kelce said. "That's a big part of the week as well, especially since (the NFL) moved this to Orlando. There's are a lot of family activities. Disney World is right there, Universal (Studios) is right there. We're certainly taking full advantage of it."

Kelce received a lot of questions about another member of his family during his time in Orlando in Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

The younger Kelce was selected to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl in 2019 but did not participate in the game because he's preparing for Super Bowl LIV. As much as the older Kelce loves hanging out with his younger brother, he was more than happy that he wasn't there for obvious reasons.

"I'm really pulling for them," Kelce said of the Chiefs. "Between Travis, Andy Reid, and a lot of other guys on that staff that I was with in Philadelphia, they're so explosive as a team, they're fun to watch, and hopefully they can get it done."

Johnson's third consecutive Pro Bowl selection doubled as a chance to get out on the water for a fishing trip with his father. The peace and serenity of fishing is blissful for Johnson, as it is in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of an NFL season.

"It's just fun," he said. "It's like a game – seeing what lure that they like, trying to catch as many as you can. And if you can't, then you make up some fishing stories."

However, his chance to unwind did not come without some entertainment.

"We were fishing and he actually caught more than the guide," Johnson said. "He put his pole down and he said, 'I ain't fished for bass in 20 years. I'm whooping the guide's butt. I think I'm good.' It was all a joke and good fun. It was something I was looking forward to for a while."

The Pro Bowl is a tremendous individual honor that every NFL player cherishes, but it also means that you fell short of the team goal of going to and ultimately winning the Super Bowl. The sun may have been bright, the fun may have been plentiful, but the hunger to be in the big game next year remained.

"Moving forward, it's just about maintaining health and just trying to win some ballgames. We're not far off," Johnson said.

"I feel like we can turn a few things around and be a lot better football team than we were this past year even though we made the playoffs," he added. "We're looking for big things."

Our Pro Bowlers spent their second day practicing and posing for team pictures!

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