The issue of retired numbers that aren’t really retired resurfaced this week when the Cardinals unretired Marshall Goldberg’s No. 99 for J.J. Watt. Another situation with retired numbers becoming unretired could happen in Chicago, if the Bears manage to trade for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wilson has worn No. 3 for nine NFL seasons in Seattle. The Bears have retired No. 3, for Bronko Nagurski. So would the Bears find a way to bring back No. 3 for Wilson?
The Bears have retired 14 numbers, and they announced when retiring Mike Ditka’s No. 89 that no further numbers will be retired. As explained by Jack Silverstein of WindyCityGridiron.com in 2018, Bears chairman George McCaskey said this in 2013 about the possibility of unretiring numbers: “We discussed a whole range of options. Unretiring numbers was thrown out there and thrown out because I said if we’re going to unretire numbers, we’re going to have to start with number 7.”
Team founder George Halas wore No. 7. Which gives the Bears the unique combination of family members who can give their blessing to the unretirement of a number and franchise that has the absolute power to issue, retire, and/or unretire numbers. So if the Bears put No. 7 back in circulation, other numbers could be brought back, too.
Wilson may not even want No. 3. At North Carolina State and at Wisconsin, he wore No. 16. Currently, Bears punter Pat O'Donnell has No. 16.
Regardless, don’t start ordering custom Bears No. 3 jerseys with “WILSON” on the back just yet. Beyond the fact that the trade remains a longshot, Wilson could end up in a new number when he puts on a new uniform.