The NFL's Michael Lombardi is in the Olympic spirit.
Headlining NFL.com's page was an original piece by Lombardi, where he proposed the hypothetical scenario of contact football in the Olympics. In this article, Lombardi selected the pro players who he felt should represent the USA but I think he got it wrong.
While some of his picks were justifiable, others just seemed to be there for argument's sake. Follow me after the jump for a look at Lombardi's selections, along with a link for his explanations. I will also list my NFL Dream Team -- feel encouraged to argue and list your own in the comments section.
Cam Newton, QB
Trent Richardson, RB
Rob Gronkowski, TE
Jimmy Graham, HB/TE
Nate Solder, T
Tyron Smith, T
Amini Silatolu, G
Brandon Brooks, G
Maurkice Pouncey, C
Mike Wallace, WR
A.J. Green, WR
Matt Prater, K
Bryan Anger, P
Jacoby Ford, KR
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
Chandler Jones, DE
Ndamukong Suh, DT
Marcell Dareus, DT
Von Miller, LB
Patrick Willis, LB
Aldon Smith, LB
Patrick Peterson, CB
Jimmy Smith, CB
Mark Barron, S
Louis Delmas, S
Lombardi selected a lot of youth, and a number of players that haven't even played a down in the NFL yet. I don't know how secure I'd feel with them representing, knowing there is a better team to be fielded by the USA.
Lombardi also built a 4-3 defense, while I would run a 3-4. The team I would assemble to represent America in Olympic football would be the following:
Aaron Rodgers, QB: Rodgers might be the most threatening NFL player every Sunday. A Super Bowl Champion and league MVP, Rodgers is automatic on game day and just seems to be the guy performing at the highest level at the QB position.
Arian Foster, RB: Choosing a running back to represent the U.S. is just a matter of preference, since there are so many good ones. Foster has the total talent and character of a player I would want representing America. He is a dynamic player out of the backfield, and someone who can be extremely efficient running between or outside the tackles.
Rob Gronkowski, TE: This is one pick of Lombardi's I won't argue with; Gronkowski is the popular vote here. The Patriots tight end is an animal after the catch, but he has such great focus while the ball is in the air, that he is a valuable all-around player. His freakish size, at 6'6, is definitely an asset too.
Vernon Davis, TE/HB: Lombardi went with Jimmy Graham at this dual-position, but I would prefer a little more speed and strength here which is why I selected Vernon Davis. Davis can make the catches like Graham, but the 49ers tight end is a much more versatile player. In 2011, he lined up in the backfield, the slot, flanker and split-end positions.
Jake Long, T: The Dolphins franchise tackle is one of the best, if not the best, player at his position today. A University of Michigan product, Long would be a great choice to represent the U.S.'s blindside. Long has the ability to overpower his opponents, whether it is a run or pass blocking assignment.
Joe Thomas, T: While Joe Thomas is a left tackle for the Browns, I would have him at right tackle for this particular event. Thomas and Long are cut from the same cloth, and would be the ideal anchors for the Dream Team's offensive line.
Mike Iupati, G: In my eyes, Iupati is the best up-and-coming interior o-lineman for the next decade. He has so much power, rarely makes mistakes, plays with a chip on his shoulder and gives the running game a pulse. Since he is not a liability in pass protection, Iupati gets my nod as the starting left guard for the Dream Team.
Carl Nicks, G: As long as he's not playing the 49ers, Nick is an excellent interior o-lineman. More known for keeping Drew Brees upright, Nicks could provide a presence in the middle and keep Rodgers clean.
Maurkice Pouncey, C: Either Pouncey would be good here actually, but I'll go ahead and agree with Lombardi's selection here. Maurkice Pouncey is a tough guy playing center, so he'll fit in with this selection of players. If I didn't choose Pouncey, I'd say Jeff Saturday, since he is currently the center for Rodgers and the Packers.
Calvin Johnson, WR: Lombardi's selections at receiver threw me for a loop. While Mike Wallace and A.J. Green are very good receivers, there are much, much better options out there. Calvin Johnson is Mr. Unstoppable as a wide receiver. In 2011, Matthew Stafford stayed healthy and things clicked for Johnson, where he went off during a career-year.
Andre Johnson, WR: Johnson is one of my favorite non-49ers in the league, and I attest, that when he is healthy, he is as good as any receiver in the league -- including Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Johnson has been the model player since he entered the league; he did have a run-in once with Cortland Finnegan, but that actually helped me pick him as my No. 2 WR. He makes all the catches and is a one-man passing offense -- just ask T.J. Yates.
Andy Lee, P: Obviously.
David Akers, K: Still pretty obvious.
Devin Hester, KR: This is a pick-your-poison situation. While Patrick Peterson, Ted Ginn Jr., Josh Cribbs and even Randall Cobb are all good choices, I'm going to go with a former Miami Hurricane. Hester is a phenomenal return man, and probably still the top guy getting it done on Sundays. He's been consistent year-to-year, even when special teams units prepare specifically for him.
Justin Smith, DT: As part of my 3-4 defense, Justin Smith is primed to be the right defensive tackle. Smith had an outstanding year in 2011, and has been a consistent performer for most of his career. He has however clicked on a level of which most have never seen, where he provides sheer dominance in the trenches.
Vince Wilfork, DT: I'm not the biggest fan of Ndamukong Suh, and I'd hate to send him to the Olympics, only for him to stomp some guy out and ruin foreign relations. Vince Wilfork is a classy guy, former Miami Hurricane, and big-time performer for the Pats defense. Still performing at a high level, Wilfork gets the nod to man the nose tackle position.
Haloti Ngata, DT: The only other team getting it done on defense like the 49ers is the Ravens. DT Haloti Ngata is a big part of that, as one of their most elite players on defense. Ngata, like Smith and Wilfork, is a presence against the run and the pass; he is just a great all-around football player on the defensive line.
Jason Pierre-Paul, OLB: Pierre-Paul is listed as a defensive end in the Giants 4-3, but I would ask him to be a full-time standup linebacker in this 3-4 scheme. Pierre-Paul has made a habit of getting to the quarterback, and that is very valuable from the OLB in this defense. JPP would provide a much needed pass rush in this defense, and would greatly benefit from the assembled defensive line in front of him.
Patrick Willis, ILB: Of course the game's best linebacker makes this list. Willis is a tackling machine and most recently, according to the players and coaches, was named the No. 10 best player in the NFL's Top 100. Patrick Willis would be a co-captain of this defense with his fellow inside linebacker.
Ray Lewis, ILB: The ageless wonder, Ray Lewis, absolutely deserves the honor to represent the U.S. team. As long as Lewis is willing to put on pads, he gets the go-ahead from me. At age 37, Lewis is still playing at a high level. This selection is also largely in part to wanting to see Willis and Lewis play next to one another.
Aldon Smith, OLB: The homer sends his final 49er. I like the combination of Aldon Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul coming from opposite sides. I wouldn't even designate one to the right side or one to the left -- I would keep them moving, and stunting and disguising their assignments. Between Smith and JPP, the 49ers would be bringing 30.5 sacks from 2011.
Darrelle Revis, CB: This is a luxury pick -- with this front seven, I could have Chilo Rachal at cornerback. But like I said with Lombardi, why not send the best? Revis could come be a shutdown corner and play man in what would probably be a tournament-based series, where he would see receivers of all different heights and speeds. If Revis is the all-around corner as advertised, then it should be a piece of cake.
Asante Samuel, CB: Still a very capable cornerback in this league, and he should remind us in 2012 when he suits up for the Atlanta Falcons for the first time. Samuel is fast, deceptive, has return ability and notoriously jumps routes, making clutch interceptions for big plays. As the No. 2 cornerback and playing opposite Revis, Samuel would be just fine in this defense.
Earl Thomas, S: The Seattle Seahawks safety is a very good ball player; us here at Niners Nation should know, and that includes the fans and readers. Thomas is usually a player to keep tabs on when the 49ers and Seahawks face off, as he is always in the middle of the action. Thomas could benefit from having this sort of defense around him, and could be a silent killer with his ability to take the ball away.
Ed Reed, S: Safeties are interchangeable, and I want two ball hawks at safety for this team. Ed Reed, like his teammate Lewis, is a living legend. People say Reed has lost a step, but like Willis said in his most recent presser, you make up for it with experience and understanding of the game. Reed has been able to diagnose plays before they happen for years, always putting himself in the right place at the right time.
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael
Defensive Coordinator: Rex Ryan
Special Teams Coach: Brad Seely
Waterboy: Scott Shanle