NFL passes “Brian Bosworth rule,” linebackers can now wear jerseys numbered 40-49

Getty Images

Brian Bosworth once filed a restraining order against the NFL in an attempt to wear the No. 44 as a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks in 1987. Bosworth eventually lost the fight and had to switch numbers to No. 55 for the remainder of his NFL career.

If Bosworth was playing in the NFL in 2015, he would have been allowed to keep his coveted No. 44.

The NFL Competition Committee passed a rule at the league meetings allowing linebackers to wear jersey numbers in the 40s for the first time. The reason given for the change was the shortage of available numbers for linebackers.

Previously, linebackers were only allowed to wear 50-59 and 90-99. With centers also eligible to wear numbers in the 50s and defensive linemen eligible to wear numbers in the 50s and 90s, the available numbers were running short. Also with the expansion of offseason rosters to 90 players, there just aren’t enough numbers to go around.

Bosworth wasn’t the only linebacker to attempt to wear a number in the 40s in the past. Another Seahawk, Julian Peterson, tried to wear No. 44 with Seattle after joining the team in 2006. He wore the number throughout the preseason before changing to No. 59 for the regular season and the remainder of his tenure in Seattle. However, Peterson didn’t attempt the legal fight Bosworth did.

There have only been a few changes to the numbering protocol since the system was introduced in 1973. The most recent changes were when defensive linemen were allowed to wear 50-59 beginning in 2010 and when receivers were allowed to wear 10-19 beginning in 2004.

39 responses to “NFL passes “Brian Bosworth rule,” linebackers can now wear jerseys numbered 40-49

  1. Yes! This was definitely more important than defining a catch or addressing the officiating issues that have direct financial impact to the players and cities.

    Linebackers with #s in the 40s? YUCK!

  2. So this means they wouldn’t have to report as an eligible receiver cause the 40s are also RB numbers?

  3. While coaching at New Hampshire in 2003…..Chip Kelly was quoted as saying……. “They will expand NFL linebackers range of eligible numbers from the 90′ and 50’s and also make the 40’s available in the year 2015″. He also stated, while laughing…..”They’ll probably call it the Bosworth rule.”

  4. I remember old Patriots D lineman, Julious Adams wearing number 85. Wonder when they were no longer to wear numbers in the 80’s?

  5. Basso kicker you hit it

    So ideally I see the following scenario

    Patriots running back number 40 goes in as ineligible and a lineman is eligible
    The lineman catches the ball and rubles to the goal line and in a huge pile the ball comes loose at the goal line and the refs call a TD

    Gee no goal line cameras to check what happened

    Riddle me this
    Why is the smartest man in the NFL not on the competition committee to keep these idiots honest

  6. Look how big the Boz’ pads are in that pic. And of course the foam neck roll. A guy would get laughed off the field today if he came out rigged up like that.

  7. Uhhh, Phil Villapiano (4 time pro bowler and AFC rookie of the year) wore #41 his whole 13 year career as a LB for the Raiders (71-79) and Bills (80-83). Was he alowed an exemption because he was drafted in 1971 (before the rule was made)?

  8. I feel bad for the Ravens who will now have to game plan on how to cover the opposing teams’ line backers.

  9. Demarcus Dobbs wore #83 for the Niners

    Hugh Douglas wore #53 well before 2010

    There’s plenty of defensive linemen with numbers in the 70s

  10. also Keyshawn wore #19 well before 2004. not sure why they made an exception for him or what the deal was with that

  11. Not to be outdone by the Bo Jackson rule:

    On MNF, drop your shoulder and run OVER some self-promotionalist with a blonde mohawk.

  12. Wait…didn’t Keyshawn start the WR teen trend in the late 90s? For the record, WRs look dumb wearing teen numbers.

  13. Brad Van Pelt was a great #10. Back up kicker as a rookie. The Crunch Bunch were great.

  14. The 30 for 30 episode “Brian And The Boz” was really great and informative. I remember those days fairly well but didn’t know the back story of The Boz.

  15. Why is this such a big deal? Shouldn’t matter what number you wear on D no one is “eligible” like on O.

  16. The number of the train this jerk rode to the end zone was 34.

    The Bo Jackson Express.

  17. What I wanna know is when the league is gonna bring back those half-mesh jerseys like Boz is wearing in the pic.

  18. All the owners sat around the pool sipping scotch after the meetings ended and they reviewed there hectic accomplishments. Move the ball closer on extra points and let linebackers wear numbers in the 40s…Jed Dork of the 49ers was overheard saying “we had some real late nights hashing out our two items this week I’m exhausted….

  19. bassplucker says:Mar 25, 2015 7:06 PM

    So this means they wouldn’t have to report as an eligible receiver cause the 40s are also RB numbers?
    It may just be because they’re on defense that they don’t need to report as eligible receivers.

  20. After college, I didn’t like Bo Jackson (because of what he did to Tampa Bay and because when he first got called up by the Royals, he handed out autographed pictures of himself to his new teammates), but admittedly, if he hadn’t gotten hurt (and he had focused on football only), he could have been the best running back I’ve ever seen. That said, I don’t know why people keep bringing up the play with the Boz. I disliked Bosworth even more, but that play wasn’t that impressive. In fact, Bosworth got him on the ground..albeit after he was already in the endzone, but he still put him down. I remember William Andrews running over Ronnie Lott, knocking him out and kept on going. Why don’t we hear about that? That was way more impressive. I mean, Lott was a good player – nobody has ever said that about the Boz.

  21. Another exception: Devin Hester wore #23 since he was brought in as a DB, but got to keep it when he switched to WR.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.