NFL owners vote to expand number selections for skill positions for the upcoming 2021 season

Gabriel Strasbaugh, Staff Reporter

The NFL owners’ meetings for the 2021 season are in full swing. Many new rule proposals and changes are on tap for the league to vote on. One rule that has players taking their voices to social media is the expansion of number selections for players. 

For years, the NFL has held a standard of certain positions having access to certain ranges of numbers for their uniform. An example of this is the quarterback’s ability to choose between the numbers one through 19. Wide receivers could wear ten through 19 and any number in the 80s. 

The new rule proposed by the Kansas City Chiefs will afford groups like receivers to wear single digit numbers or numbers between 20-49. This change is very similar to the style in which the NCAA is run. 

According to Sports Illustrated, the Chiefs presented the proposal from a lack of numbers available at the end of last season. The number of retired numbers created issues in the Chiefs management when signing new players. 

In college football, the NCAA allows players to wear any number they want. Many times, players must leave their old number from college behind to conform to the NFL’s policy. An example that made headlines at the time involves former USC running-back Reggie Bush. The former Heisman winner and Super Bowl 44 champion with the Saints associated himself with his number five at USC. 

Drafted number two overall in the 2006 NFL draft, Bush showed up to Saint’s practice for the first time in a Saints number five jersey. Bush levied for the NFL to relax their policy in his case. The league denied the request. Bush made the decision to wear the next closest thing which then was number 25. This did not stop Topps from producing multiple variations of his rookie card wearing five. 

This is the first major change since 1973. Originally, numbers had no correlation to positions. At that same time, almost no player wore a number higher than 25. Former Bears halfback, Red Grange, broke this trend dawning the number 77 during his career. 

Rule five article two of the NFL rule book on their official website states; “If a player changes his position during his playing career in the NFL, and such change moves him from a position as an ineligible pass receiver to that of an eligible pass receiver, or from a position as an eligible pass receiver to that of an ineligible pass receiver, he must be issued an appropriate new jersey numeral.”

Many current players have publicly spoken of their interest in changing their numbers. Most interest centers on wearing their old numbers from college. Players such as Cowboys running-back Ezekiel Elliott, Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Vikings running-back Dalvin Cook took to their social media profiles with fan edits of them in their team’s uniforms with old numbers. 

The 2021 season now has 17 regular season games and will feature many similar faces possibly in many new looks.