The NFL Pro Bowl is no longer what most adults remember it to be from their childhood. But like everything, it has changed with the times. The first iteration of the all-star game took place after the 1938 season at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. From 1939 to 1942, the all-star game pitted the championship team against a team of all-stars. The all-stars lost the first four games until they won the fifth and final matchup before the game was put on hold because of WWII.
The first official Pro Bowl was played in January of 1951, matching the top players in the American/Eastern Conference against those in the National/Western Conference. That lasted until the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL, which then was officially called the NFC-AFC Pro Bowl until 2013.
Between 2014 and 2016, the NFL experimented with members of the Hall of Fame who served as honorary captains, selecting the teams before the game. No matter what the NFL did, the Pro Bowl has never been a fan favorite because players never took it very seriously, and for good reason. These are some of the highest-paid athletes who want to preserve their bodies for the next season, so they were extra cautious not to get hurt, which is not how football is meant to be played.
Pro Bowl Games – Change for the Future
Over the years, the NFL has dealt with many criticisms and eventually realized it needed to make a major change to its all-star week. In September 2022, the NFL announced that the Pro Bowl would switch to a non-contact flag football game in 2023 and a partnership with Peyton Manning's Omaha Productions to revamp Pro Bowl week as the "Pro Bowl Games."
We are now in the second iteration of the Pro Bowl Games, which is now the week before the Super Bowl (instead of after). Thursday, February 1st, marks the beginning of the games that will take place at Camping World Arena in Orlando, Florida.
What’s going on at the 2024 Pro Bowl Games in Orlando, you ask? @JennaBandy21— NFL (@NFL) January 31, 2024
📺: #ProBowlGames start Thursday 7pm ET on ESPN pic.twitter.com/COyPti6USV
Thursday is filled with many exciting skills games, including Precision Passing, Best Catch, Closest to the Pin, High Stakes, Dodgeball, and Snap Shot. Closest to the Pin and Best Catch will be pre-recorded as the players will travel to different locations to participate in these competitions. The games are a way for fans to watch some of their favorite athletes participate in competitions that could be recreated at home or elsewhere. It’s a great way to showcase the insane athletic abilities and skills that NFL players possess.
All these games will be played by the roster of players that a combination of votes by fans, coaches, and players selected. The San Francisco 49ers led the league with nine players selected to the 2024 Pro Bowl, while the Ravens and Cowboys tied for second most with seven. No 49ers nor Kansas City Chiefs players will participate in the games because they will be preparing for the Super Bowl, so alternates were selected to take their place. The Patriots, Panthers, Commanders, and Packers had zero players selected to the Pro Bowl but did have some players named as alternates.
For many years, there was a gentleman's agreement that the defensive players would not tackle, so the ball carriers would go down when touched or go out of bounds. Commissioner Rodger Goodell realized this was terrible viewing and decided to go to a format that was becoming very popular in the world – Flag Football.
NFL Flag Championships
Flag Football has taken the world by storm, and the NFL Flag Championships will be held at the 2024 Pro Bowl Games. The tournament will showcase teams that won at the 2023 NFL Flag Regionals. Multiple levels of flag football, including youth, adult, and international teams, will compete in the NFL Flag Championships.
The NFL Flag Championships marks the first time a competition with over 250 teams will participate in a flag football tournament. Teams from around the U.S. and 12 countries have earned a spot in the championships taking place at the University of Central Florida's recreational fields in Orlando from Feb. 1-4.
The NFL Flag Championships structure will consist of eight flag football teams in each league, ranging from eight-and-under co-ed to adults. Many different leagues will compete this week. The NFL Flag Football League has teams from 23 different regions that represent NFL teams. There is a youth league with teams from Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and the U.K. Then there is a youth league between teams in the U.S. and Canada.
Olympics LA 2028
Flag football is one of the world's fastest-growing sports, played by over 20 million people in more than 100 countries. It is the most inclusive and accessible format of football, played by people of all ages and genders, with female athletes driving some of the fastest growth. It is also one of the newest Olympic sports that will debut in the 2028 Olympic games in L.A.
Many of the NFL’s young–stars have expressed interest in representing the U.S.A. as flag football team members. Many fans believe that we will dominate the competition if we have NFL players playing, but I say, “Not so fast.” Flag football is a different game than what NFL players play, and there are many good athletes all over the world. As one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, there should be plenty of competition for America in 2028.
With huge targets on our backs and teams from around the world preparing only for this moment, a team of NFL stars will have their hands full. Sure, we will have some of the best athletes, but they will not be only preparing for flag football. They will face challenges similar to those that NBA players face when they play in the Olympics – the international game is different. All that to say, it will be fascinating to watch NFL players go up against the world in an exciting game of flag football.
It’s an Offensive World, and We’re Just Living in It
The weekend of flag football will culminate with some of the best NFL players facing off in a flag football game to determine which conference is the best. The game is set to cap off the Sunday Pro Bowl Championship, coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 4. The scores from the skills challenges will be added up and will be the score to start the flag football game.
It will most definitely be an exciting game because it features Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, Keenan Allen, James Cook, and Tua Tagovailoa on the AFC side, and CeeDee Lamb, Puka Nakua, Sam LaPorta, D'Andre Swift, and Baker Mayfield on the NFC side. To make things even more entertaining, Peyton Manning will return as the head coach of the AFC, with Ray Lewis as his DC and Wes Welker as his OC. Eli Manning takes on his brother as the head coach of the NFC, with Keenan McCardell as his OC and DeMarcus Ware as his DC.
If last year is any indication, then the game will be much more entertaining than the previous Pro Bowl format. The incentive to play hard is there as the winner of last year’s game took home $82,000 while the loser only got $42,000. Watching the best-skill players go at it in a 7-on-7 flag football game will be fast-paced and fun.
As a collegiate DB, a defensive coach once told me, “It’s an offensive world, and we are just living in it.” The Pro Bowl is a prime example of how the fans and the NFL want to see the offensive players succeed. Even so, the defense still wins championships, and the team that makes the most stops in the flag football game will win.