Earlier this week, news broke that flag football would be included in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, sparking interest by current and ex-NFL players alike.
Dallas Cowboys edge-rusher Micah Parsons said he wants to build a super team while Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill and retired Patriots and Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski also seem ready to rep the red, white and blue in 2028.
Though the NFL is working to make players available for the Games, some of the league’s biggest stars are unlikely to line up during the 2028 Olympics.
To begin with, the 12-person teams will field five players at a time, meaning there’s little room to accommodate any significant percentage of NFL players who want to be Olympians.
Ideally, flag players are quick and agile, as the ability to change directions is key in the sport, as shown in video of a game between Italy and the U.S. at last year’s World Games in Birmingham, Ala..
A flag football field is smaller – 50 yards from 10-yard end zone to 10-yard end zone, with 30 yards between sidelines – so passing is important but deep throws are not the norm. Rule out NFL quarterbacks whose top asset is their strong arm and deep-threat wide receivers.
And while strength will matter to an extent, flag football is a non-contact sport. There are no linemen on either side and though the ball is snapped, that “center” then moves downfield to become a receiver.
Gronk was a skilled receiver, but his abilities as a blocker and to run over defenders would be useless in flag football. Parsons may be quick, but without the need to go around or through a 300-pound behemoth to get a sack, what would he bring to a defense that someone like Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner wouldn’t do better?
The offensive focus in flag football is on creating space, not pounding the rock up the middle, so while someone like Eagles D-lineman Jordan Davis would be rendered ineffective, a lockdown cornerback will be worth his or her weight in gold.
Players with certain skills, such as shifty wide receivers, finesse running backs and accurate quarterbacks, are better suited for flag football.
Perhaps the most obvious and impactful reason current players might not play is timing.
The 2028 Games will begin July 14, a few weeks before the start of NFL training camps. Franchise quarterbacks and top-tier wide receivers often determine how well a team does. Would NFL owners and coaches want to risk a torn ACL that will keep a star out for a season?
So, for now, enjoy imagining Patrick Mahomes chucking bombs to Justin Jefferson, because by the time 2028 gets here, the U.S. Olympic flag football team might not look like anything you might think.