NFL may allow defensive backs, linebackers, running backs to wear single-digit numbers

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The NFL is considering a rule that won’t necessarily change the game on the field, but will change the way the game looks, and a rule that players have long advocated for: Loosening the restrictions on jersey numbers, including allowing more players to wear single-digit numbers.

A proposal that owners will vote on at the upcoming league meeting would allow single-digit numbers to be worn by more players than just quarterbacks, kickers and punters, who are the only players currently allowed to wear single digits.

Under the proposal, defensive backs, linebackers, running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, H-backs and wide receivers would all be allowed to wear jerseys in the single digits. Defensive backs and linebackers could wear any number from 1 to 49, while running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, H-backs and wide receivers could all wear 1 to 49 and 80 to 89.

Quarterbacks, punters and kickers would still be required to wear numbers 1 to 19, linemen would still wear 50 to 79, and defensive linemen and linebackers could also wear 90 to 99.

One of the most visible differences between college and pro football is that college players have more jersey number options. Soon that difference may disappear.

77 responses to “NFL may allow defensive backs, linebackers, running backs to wear single-digit numbers

  1. It took some getting used to for me to see linebackers wearing 40’s numbers. Now they won’t get to wear 50’s at all? 🤔

  2. Why does this matter? Will they sell more jerseys? It certainly doesn’t help a player score more touchdowns or make more interceptions

  3. Not a bid deal obviously but this just epitomizes how the NFL just can’t help but tinker with stuff even if there’s absolutely no need or even demand for it. It boggles the mind that coming out of a pandemic where everything has been turned upside down and they’re just hoping to get back to some sense of normalcy somebody took the time to worry about what numbers positions wear.

  4. this is dumb
    LBs should only were 50s
    RB/FBs were 20-40s
    QB/Kickers 1-19
    WRs/TEs 80-89
    Oline 50-79

  5. I’m all for this, while being fully aware it does nothing for the game.

    Gimme a Derrick Henry #2 again!

    It may be gimmicky but I think it’s kinda cool to see which players want to do it.

  6. Who cares what number a player wears? Will Aaron Donald play any different if they took his 99 and replaced it with a 5? I doubt it.

  7. I don’t dislike it besides the 50’s not being in the mix for linebackers; everything else is alright.

  8. Throw in some CFL rules and let WRs wear numbers in the 70s. That would really look weird.

  9. Can someone explain the need for any rules besides 2 players on the same team cannot wear the same number and the uniform numbers cannot go over 99?

  10. Please don’t…..I hate watching college games and seeing a 320 pound DL wearing #23…Maybe I’m weird, but I like knowing what position someone plays just based on his number…

  11. This game has changed so much over the last 30 years….there have been over 70+ rule changes since 1980.

    So for the better some not so.

    This is just another change that I feel isn’t needed and takes away an older understood rule of positional numbering that we have come to know in the game.

    Why??? change isn’t always a good thing… this one is un-needed. Stop changing the game of Football… Please

  12. The only position that should be allowed to wear single digits that cannot today is WR.

    And that’s because so many QB numbers have been retired, and they were only previously allowed to wear 80s numbers, and then teens, but no one wants to wear the 80s so by the time a team issues single-digits & teens to QBs, K/Ps, WRs and covers their retired numbers, they’ve run out.

    LBs, DBs, TEs, and RBs wearing single-digit numbers in the NFL is STUPID. LBs who wear 40s look stupid, if you need an example.

    Some things are best left in high school & college. This is one of them.

  13. With teams historically retiring so many numbers it’s obvious the jersey number rule needs to be relaxed.

  14. Numbers only matter for o-lineman, so refs can easily tell if they are illegally downfield on a pass – assign them letters of the alphabet and let everyone else where what they want. heheh

  15. I am all for it. I think defensive players should be able to wear any number and the only limitation on offense should be ineligible vs eligible numbers for linemen vs anyone else on offense.

  16. It’s a jersey number, so why should I care which number a player choose to wear? It’s not like a jersey number change will impact their performance on the field, and if anything it will allow the players who jerseys that deserves being retired to be retired. Instead of having to keep it active because certain positions can only get a certain number range to choose from.

  17. kjdoyle58 says:
    April 1, 2021 at 10:46 am

    Maybe I’m weird, but I like knowing what position someone plays just based on his number


    That’s not weird. There are two uses for a number: identifying a specific player, and identifying a position group at a glance.

    Changes like this trash half the reason numbers are worn at all.

  18. Bill Belichick will figure out how to use this to his advantage, and John Harbaugh will complain about it.

  19. wouldn’t changing the numbers make it harder for referees to make certain calls like “illegally downfield”… it’s bad enough that they make all kinds of mistakes….

  20. ThePewterPirate says:
    April 1, 2021 at 10:06 am
    It took some getting used to for me to see linebackers wearing 40’s numbers. Now they won’t get to wear 50’s at all?

    This can’t be accurate. Almost all the HOF linebackers wore 50-59.

  21. The return of Larry Wilson #8! Enjoyed watching him play safety, and his patented safety blitz.

  22. I think QBs and WR’s should also have 20-29 available to them. Often times WRs take runs from the backfield (Cordarrelle Patterson- him wearing #84 is an insult to WRs). And QBs these days run alot. Could you imagine the confusion for the defense on an RPO play if Lamar Jackson wore #28? It would be a nightmare for the defense.

  23. dctommy says:
    April 1, 2021 at 12:25 pm
    wouldn’t changing the numbers make it harder for referees to make certain calls like “illegally downfield”… it’s bad enough that they make all kinds of mistakes….

    No, it would not make that call more difficult. Linemen will still have a different range of numbers than eligible receivers.

  24. Here comes the run on single digit numbers. These guys just have to draw more attention to themselves.

  25. No linebackers wearing 50s??? huh. Ray Lewis Dick Butkus Jack Lambert Mike Singletary Patrick Willis Zach THomas????

  26. One argument in favor of loosening the numbering rules is that more and more we’re seeing, especially on defense, a move away from the old-school positions. For example what used to be known as “defensive ends” are now called “edge rushers” and depending on the scheme employed it’s not unusual for these players to drop back into pass coverage. And a lot of players also are kind of safety/linebacker hybrids.

    So basically, there isn’t much of a practical reason for defensive players to not be allowed any number they want. On offense, the rule could simply be that 1-49 and 80-89 are eligible receivers and the rest are for linemen.

    I’m fine with QB’s being limited to 1-19, but that’s only because it would look weird to see a QB wearing 22 like Doug Flutie did in college.

  27. I don’t even like wide receivers wearing the low numbers it just looks weird

  28. Ever one with white numbers except offensive linemen, who should have yellow numbers. and then you can have any number you want

  29. And in other news …

    Star Trek crew members can express themselves by inventing their own uniform color.

    Avengers can now fight in denim.

    Parallelograms will now be called squares because it’s close enough.

  30. Current players’ numbers sort of give an idea of the position a player plays, which can be very informative about things that happen on field. As much a refs call the wrong number on penalties this change would really screw their world up.

  31. I can’t wait till they petition to wear triple digits holding number 108 and PI on number 125 lmao….

  32. Is nothing sacred? Is there no tradition of the game we love that will not be sacrificed on the altar of profit?

  33. What I don’t understand is that on a long enough timeline every team is going to have so many retired numbers eventually that they are going to either have to unretire numbers or figure something else out. I don’t think the NFL has even been around for a hundred years and there are already so many retired numbers. What about in 200 years? Over half the team’s numbers will be retired.

  34. Why stop there? Have the O-line and D-line wear triple digit numbers! Wouldn’t that be a blast!

  35. Why not symbols like a square root sign or %? There must be something more productive to do when you’re getting paid > 40 million per year to e a puppet.

  36. Love it – let them wear what they want if you’re too dumb to realize they’re not whatever position this number represents thats on you.

  37. Nooo don’t do it. Growing up I was obsessed with single digits in football. Maybe it was Jason Witten wearing #1 at Tennessee. But if you know football culture, you know numbers are a big deal and all the best players want the single digits. But that’s what separates the pros from the amateurs. Don’t do it!

  38. Overtime is still a bit of a mess, and so what is/isn’t a catch, but nice to see the important issues being addressed!

  39. What happens if Tight Ends rotate to Offensive Linemen? Would they have to switch numbers?
    Does this mean that a lot of the current players will be switching numbers, like linebaackers who mostly wear 50’s?

  40. Great Idea, Get as many jerseys at or under 31 as possible.

    It’s a fact that most people’s birthday is their lucky number.

    More single digits to popular positions = more sales.

  41. Dumb Goodell style idea as usual, but almost worth it just for Harbaugh’s whining when Belichick deploys players wearing 1.01, 0.11, 0.01, and so on.

  42. Wait so linebackers can no longer wear #s in the 50s under these rules??? That would be terrible and tarnish the honoring of the best to play the LB position (ie, LT #56).

  43. Folks, let’s all be honest. This is all about selling more jersey’s. That’s all. No other good reason.

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