I’m not sure who exactly is going to necessarily care about this news, but it seems as though in a short period of time certain players such as defensive backs will soon be granted the opportunity to wear single-digit numbers on their jerseys, rather than being restricted to wearing numbers between the 20s and 40s.
A player like Joe Haden of the Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, a cornerback who wore the number five while with the Florida Gators, might be interested in being able to wear his old jersey number again. A number of players have weighed in on social media about the potential to adopt a single-digit number, though some received blowback from fans, prompting them to reassure them that they would be keeping their current number.
But it’s likely that they will soon have the option to do so if they wished, as there is a proposal under consideration that will be voted on this Wednesday by the owners, which would open up single-digit jersey numbers to more positions.
Tom Pelissero previously reported that the proposal, submitted by the Kansas City Chiefs, “has strong support among NFL teams,” implying that it’s likely to be passed. With expanded practice squads, it’s growing more difficult to assign players numbers, especially for clubs with retired numbers and numbers taken out of the rotation.
Another proposal that has strong support among NFL teams, per sources: Easing restrictions on who can wear which jersey numbers.
There are some hurdles for veteran players to change their numbers. But get ready to see some receivers and running backs wearing single-digits soon.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 16, 2021
Currently, only quarterbacks, punters, and kickers are permitted to wear single-digit numbers, which is rather limiting. Teams will rarely have more than five of such players in total at any given time, and sometimes teams only have two quarterbacks.
Under the rule change under consideration, it would open up numbers 1-19 for running backs that were previously unavailable, instead of a limit to the range of 20-49. It would also give them access to jerseys in the 80s, though frankly, it would look really weird at this point to see a running back wearing No. 87.
Tight ends were previously limited to numbers in the 40s and 80s, but under the new rule would have access to those ranges in addition to everything from 1-39. Wide receivers were previously limited to numbers in the 10s and 80s, but would now have the same access as running backs and tight ends.
Basically, all skill positions would have jersey numbers 1-49 and 80-89 opened up to them. Defensive backs would also have all numbers between 1-49 opened up to them, though not numbers in the 80s. No defenders are allowed to wear jersey numbers in the 80s.
Noteworthy is the fact that linebackers would also expand their access to everything between 1-59 and 90s numbers. Previously, they were limited to 40-59 and 90-99. Numbers in the 50s were also previously available only to centers among offensive linemen, but now will be open to all offensive linemen, with a full range of 50-79.
Surely only a small handful will ultimately find this interesting, but with the likelihood of this passing, we are probably going to see at least a couple of players change their jersey numbers. Incoming rookies will also have a wider variety of options, so it will take some getting used to seeing certain position groups wearing ‘odd’ numbers.