NFL players enthusiastic about prospect of pursuing Olympic gold when flag football debuts in 2028
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tyreek Hill is a five-time All-Pro, eight-time Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl champion.
The speedy Miami Dolphins receiver likes the idea of also having an opportunity to pursue Olympic gold when the rapidly growing sport of flag football debuts in the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles, a sentiment shared by other NFL stars, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Hill, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and running back Raheem Mostert, Detroit Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Evan Engram are among the players representing the AFC and NFC at the Pro Bowl Games, which conclude Sunday with a seven-on-seven flag exhibition that will offer fans and a national television audience a sense of what the sport could look like with such highly skilled talent on the field.
“That’s going to be really exciting,” Tagovailoa said, adding he played flag football as a 5- or 6-year-old and is eager to see the makeup of the roster for Team USA in four years.
Flag football is one of five sports added to the Olympic program for 2028.
The NFL, which continues to expand its global brand, has expressed a willingness to work with the NFL Players Association, USA Football, the International Federation of American Football and the International Olympic Committee regarding the prospect of current and former players participating in Los Angeles.
“Those conversations around eligibility and process have started,” league executive Peter O’Reilly said.
“Obviously, (there’s) a little bit of time, and there’s a lot of great global flag football competitions to come in the years ahead that may be less on people’s radars — world championships, world games … but important things for us to work through, and we’ll continue to do that,” O’Reilly added.
This is the second year that Pro Bowl week festivities have culminated with a non-contact flag game that’s replaced the event’s traditional tackle exhibition.
The NFL has helped spur the growth of flag football for young boys and girls throughout the world, in part through organizing clinics, camps and competitions while supporting the creation of college scholarships.
Youth teams of boys and girls from Australia, the Bahamas, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and the United Kingdom traveled to Orlando, Florida, to compete in the International NFL Flag Championships during the Pro Bowl Games.
Canada, which won last year’s NFL Flag International Division, made the trip to face U.S. flag teams in the National NFL Flag Championship event.
Former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who is coaching the NFC in Sunday’s flag game at Camping World Stadium, is supportive of the idea of NFL players participating in the Olympics.
“I think it’s great. The fact that they have an impact on that and growing the game of flag football,” Manning said.
“You see a lot of kids that are younger are playing flag football. In a lot of ways, that’s how they get introduced to the game of football. They are big fans of it, understand it,” the two-time Super Bowl champion added. “Even a lot of players now who are here grew up playing flag football or versions of it. … It’s a game on its own.”
Older brother Peyton Manning, a Hall of Famer as well as a two-time Super Bowl winner and coach of the AFC, also is enthusiastic about the growth of the fast-paced sport.
“I’m excited for flag football and the Olympics,” Peyton Manning said. “I heard Tyreek saying he’d like to make it, so it would a (tough) competition for people trying to compete” for roster spots.
Hill and Mahomes are among the biggest names who’ve expressed interest in possibly playing for Team USA.
Mostert said he has never played organized flag football, but he is looking forward to Sunday’s game between the NFL’s two conferences.
“Obviously, flag football is a great sport. Everyone is really in tune with it,” Mostert said.
“I think it does a lot for the game of football itself. It’s definitely a safer, less contact version of the game, and it allows other countries be introduced to the game or even finding the great talent in their country and inside their lines playing this great sport,” Engram said. “The Olympics have been the highest pinnacle of competition, so adding football to that is really cool.”
Count St. Brown among those who grew up playing flag football. He’s thought about the possibility of playing in the Olympics but hasn’t decided if it’s for him.
“I don’t know yet. … But maybe when I retire. Right now, I might get injured, whatever the case may be,” St. Brown said. “After I’m done playing, shoot, I’d love to get out there and do something.”
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