Budda Baker was again staring down the opposition Thursday night.
Instead of looking across the line of scrimmage at a quarterback, he was looking to make a big-time play on the dodgeball court during the Pro Bowl Skills Show in Orlando. Baker didn't last long but was able to eliminate a few AFC offensive players along the way.
It's fun and games during the week-long, all-star style event. While the players clearly don't take the event as seriously as a regular-season game, competitiveness runs through their blood. The fire Baker plays with is one of the reasons he was named to his fifth straight Pro Bowl.
"Each and every week I just try and come into work and do my best and do my job, whatever it is," Baker said. "It's definitely cool to see my peers and players around the league and coaches and executives around the league think of me so highly. It's definitely special."
Even while missing five games due to injury in the beginning of the season, Baker finished second on the team with 87 tackles and had 5 tackles for loss.
Despite the Pro Bowl nod, it's no secret that the statistics this season didn't meet Baker's expectations. He finished his seventh season without any interceptions, forced fumbles or fumble recovery. It was the first time in his career he didn't accumulate one of those stats.
Frustrated? Yes, but Baker remains confident in his tape.
"The splash plays, those haven't come, but I know I'm doing my job," Baker said. "My peers around me know. My coaches and my teammates know, and that's the biggest thing for me. As long as you turn on that film and you see me doing the right thing each and every week, that's all I care about."
Two-thirds of the Pro Bowl vote were decided by the coaches and players from other teams. Baker didn't finish in the top 10 of the fan vote, but the respect Baker has earned across the league helped his case for his sixth Pro Bowl.
The format of the Pro Bowl has changed drastically over the years. It's no longer an actual game like the one they famously played in Hawaii from 1980 to 2016 (minus 2010 and 2015). For the second season in a row, the two conferences will play against each other in flag football. Peyton Manning will coach the AFC and Eli Manning will coach Baker and the NFC.
It also gives the NFL's best an opportunity to mingle with one another during the festivities.
"Last year going to it in Vegas, it was definitely something fun," Baker said. "To be around the players a little more, talk to the players, fans were able to see us without our helmets on which is definitely good and nice."
The flag football game will take place on Sunday. If it's anything like the dodgeball game, Baker's natural competitor instincts will flash, just like they did this past season.
"Pro Bowls and accolades, I know that will always come with doing your own job," Baker said. "My job is to help my teammates, to help the guys around me, and most importantly, play good football."