ORLANDO, Fla. — When the two-minute warning occurred before halftime during Sunday’s NFL Pro Bowl, the crowd stood in silence at Camping World Stadium.
An image of Kobe Bryant appeared on the stadium’s two large video screens and Jaguars veteran defensive end Calais Campbell, who was named the defensive MVP in the game, dropped to a knee and prayed on the field.
After the moment of silence, the crowd of 54,024 chanted ‘Kobe’ in unison.
It all came following Sunday’s stunning news that Bryant, the former Los Angeles Lakers’ star, was among five people who died Sunday in a helicopter crash, which included his 13-year-old daughter, in Calabasas, Calif.
“Being a professional athlete, he’s one of us,” Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark said. “It’s crazy we’re not going to see him on the sidelines anymore. I still haven’t got my head around it. It was a good thing we were able to go out and play a game to bring us up, but you can tell everybody in the locker room was feeling that.”
Throughout the game won by the AFC 38-33, players extended tributes to honor Bryant, 41.
Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett, Green Bay’s ZaDarius Smith and Detroit’s Darius Slay did step-back fadeaway jumpers after Smith sacked Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in the second quarter.
In the first half, the entire NFC defense broke the huddle with everyone raising their arms up to shoot fadeaway jump shots — Bryant’s favorite shot.
And Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams dunked the ball over the crossbar on the goalposts after catching a third-quarter touchdown pass from Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“We all found out together and it’s still hard to fathom and understand,” Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt said. “He was such an iconic figure in sports and in life. I don’t think any of us have been able to sit down and kind of take it all in yet. it’s definitely a big-time tragedy.”
It was a surreal day but the Jaguars’ three Pro Bowl participants — rookie defensive end Josh Allen, Chark and Campbell — had their moments to stand out among the elites.
Allen applied ferocious pass-rush pressure off the edge that led to his second-half sack.
Campbell had a sack-fumble on Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins that Watt recovered and returned 82 yards for a touchdown that put the AFC ahead 38-27 in the fourth quarter.
Playing in his third consecutive Pro Bowl, Campbell said last week his production warrants his $17.5 million salary for 2020.
If the Jaguars release Campbell, they would save $15 million from their salary cap.
“You have to pay for talent, and I’m a very talented player. So I don’t think my cap number is too high at all, based on my performance,” Campbell said. “But I understand what the situation is with the team not in a great cap situation. But these guys are really good at this, and they’re going to make it work.”
In the third quarter, Chark showed off his big-play ability with a 60-yard touchdown catch on a pass tossed by Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill.