The Full Wiki

Uniform number (American football): Wikis

Advertisements
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In American football, uniform numbers are more unusual than in any other sport. They are displayed in more locations on the uniform than in those of other sports (on both the front and back of the jersey, on both shoulders, and often on the helmet), and on the front of the jersey, they are displayed very large, taking up almost the entire front of the jersey. Just as importantly, certain numbers may only be worn by players playing particular positions; thus the jersey numbers assist the officials in determining possible illegal actions by players.

Unlike most other sports, in which teams have smaller rosters, American football players routinely have uniform numbers that cover the full range of numbers from 1 to 99. In other sports, where not as many numbers are needed, lower numbers are more traditional and are usually desired by players. But in American football, with the number of players on a roster sometimes exceeding 100, there is a need for many more numbers.

Most football leagues have a system in place that requires or otherwise encourages players in certain positions to be issued numbers within a certain range.

Contents

NFL

A system of assignment of jersey numbers was initiated in American football's NFL in 1952;[1] it was updated and made more rigid in 1973.[2] Numbers are always worn on the front and back of a player's jersey, and so-called "TV numbers" are worn on the sleeve or shoulder. The Cincinnati Bengals were the last NFL team to wear jerseys without "TV numbers" on a regular basis in 1980, though since then several NFL teams have worn throwback uniforms from a time without "TV numbers", since as of 2008 they are not mandated by NFL rules. (The same can't be said for players' last names on the backs of jerseys, which are required to be on all uniforms, even throwbacks that predated the last name rule.) Most recently, the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, and Pittsburgh Steelers wore throwbacks without "TV numbers".

Many uniforms also feature numbers either on the front, back, or sides of the helmet (in pro football, these were most famously worn on the San Diego Chargers "powder-blue" uniforms). Below is the numbering system established by the NFL and in place since 1973:[2]

  • Since 2004,[3] Wide receivers are also allowed to wear numbers between 10 and 19 if they choose, even if a number from 80 through 89 is available.

When the more rigid system went into effect in 1973, players who played in the league before then were given a grandfather clause to continue wearing newly prohibited numbers (i.e. many wide receivers wore jersey numbers in the teens and 20s before the rule changes required receivers to wear numbers in the 80s, and many defensive linemen and linebackers wore numbers in the 80s). New England Patriots defensive end Julius Adams was the last player to be covered by the clause, wearing number 85 through the 1985 season, but he had to wear number 69 when he briefly came out of retirement in 1987 during the 1987 strike. This was in stark contrast to when the league required linemen to wear jersey numbers in the 50-79 range in 1952 (for ineligible receiver purposes), since Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham wore number 60 prior to this change. Graham switched to number 14, which was retired by the Browns while his more familiar number 60 remains in circulation today, currently worn by defensive end Melila Purcell.

It should be noted that this NFL numbering system is based on a player's primary position. Also, if a player changes primary positions during his career, he does not usually have to change his number unless he changes from an eligible receiver to ineligible or vice versa (Jason Peters is a notable example, having moved between tight end, where he wore number 86, to offensive tackle, where he currently wears 71). Any player wearing any number may play at any position on the field at any time (though players wearing numbers 50-79 must let the referee know that they are playing out of position by reporting as an "ineligible number in an eligible position"). It is not uncommon for running backs to line up at wide receiver on certain plays, or to have a large lineman play at fullback or tight end in short yardage situations, or to have wide receivers fill in as extra defensive backs. Also, in preseason games, when teams have expanded rosters, players may wear numbers that are outside of the above rules. When the final 53-player roster is established, they are reissued numbers within the above guidelines.

The earliest numbering systems were significantly different from the modern variation. Until the 1920s, it was rare to see player numbers much higher than 25, and numbers had little correlation with positions (in 1929, the Orange Tornadoes subverted the system even further, experimenting with using letters instead of numbers.[2]) The numbering system used today originated in football's past when all teams employed some variation of the single wing formation on offense. When teams switched to the T-formation in the 1930s and 1940s, the numbers were taken with them to whatever position evolved from the old single wing position. This numbering system originated in college football and was used only informally in the NFL until 1952; under the original somewhat informal system, the backs were numbered 1-4 and the line 5-8. Tailbacks, left halfbacks or flankers (1-back) were given 10s, Blocking backs or quarterbacks (2 backs) were given numbers in the 20s, fullbacks (or 3-backs) were given numbers in the 30s, and right halfbacks, what would become simply the halfback or running back (4-backs) in the 40s, centers in the 50s, guards in the 60s, tackles in the 70s, and ends in the 80s. Earlier, defensive players wore numbers that reflected their offensive position, as many players played both offense and defense. For example, quarterbacks and halfbacks usually played in the defensive back field and so had numbers in the 10s, 20s, and 40s. Fullbacks were linebackers and had numbers in the 30s; Centers and guards were linebackers as well and has numbers in the 50s and 60s respectively. Guards and tackles played the defensive guard and tackle positions and had numbers in the 60s and 70s respectively. Ends had numbers in the 80s. Split ends (e.g. Emlen Tunnell) would be cornerbacks and tight ends (e.g. Fred Dryer, Buck Buchanan) would be defensive ends but all would have numbers in the 80s. The original numbering system was based on the single wing offense and went as follows. Tailback or left halfback (e.g. Frank Gifford) had a number in the 10s. The blocking back, which evolved into the quarterback in the T formation, had a number in the 20s (e.g. Bobby Layne and John Hadl, and Doug Flutie during his college career). The fullback had a number in the 30s and the right halfback had a number in the 40s. One the line the center was in the 50s, the guards were in the 60s, the tackles were in the 70s, and the ends were in the 80s.

The CFL had a very different numbering system with the ends in the 70s, making wide receivers up until recent times having 70s numbers (CFL Receivers may still wear numbers in the 70s, but as most receivers are from the U.S., they will usually wear 80s if they choose to wear a higher number; CFL receivers may also wear numbers from 1-19). The AAFC had a different numbering system with quarterback in the 60s (Otto Graham), fullbacks in the 70s (Marion Motley), halfbacks in the 80s, ends in the 50s (Mac Speedie), tackles in the 40s (Lou Groza), guards in the 30s and centers in the 20s. When the AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950, the AAFC players kept their old uniform numbers which caused confusion and resulted in the NFL going to a standard numbering system in 1952. This resulted in many star players having to change their numbers in mid-career. Examples are Otto Graham going from 60 to 14, Norm Van Brocklin going from 25 to 11, and Tom Fears going from 55 to 80.[citation needed]

Players have often asked (or, in some cases, challenged) the NFL for an exception to the numbering system rule. In 2006, New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush requested to keep the number 5 he wore in college. His request was declined, and he was assigned number 25 by the team.[4] Former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth wore number #44 in college for the University of Oklahoma and wore that number during the 1987 preseason with the Seahawks. He took the NFL to court for the right to wear #44, but he lost and had to switch to #55.

Advertisements

Exceptions

There have been granted many exceptions to the rules. The most notable case may be former wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who was allowed to wear number 19 despite available numbers in the 80s. This, combined with the fact that more NFL teams were retiring 80s numbers, led to the league to allow wide receivers to wear numbers 10-19 in addition to 80s numbers in 2004.

Former New York Giants linebacker Brad Van Pelt was allowed to wear number 10 with the team despite not being covered in the grandfather clause, as the team drafted him in 1973, the year the newer jersey number system went into effect. This was because Van Pelt served as the team's backup kicker his rookie season.[5] Van Pelt did wear number 91 at the end of his career for the Los Angeles Raiders and Cleveland Browns.

While with the New England Patriots, current Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel wore number 50 despite also playing tight end in goal line offensive packages. As of December 2009, Vrabel still wears the same number.

Another former wide receiver, Dwight Stone, was allowed to wear number 20 when he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, with whom he spent the majority of his career. Stone did wear 80s numbers after he left the Steelers. Another former Steeler, tight end Matt Cushing, wore number 48, but he was listed as a "tight end/fullback", since he was also the team's backup fullback.

A number of current players wear numbers outside the range for their primary position. Tight ends Chris Cooley of the Washington Redskins and Jeff King of the Carolina Panthers both wear number 47. Tight end/linebacker Spencer Havner of the Green Bay Packers wears number 41. Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark wears number 44 despite in all cases having had an 80s number available. Unlike the aforementioned Cushing, none of these players play any other position. In addition, Chicago Bears wide receiver/return specialist Devin Hester wears number 23, which represented the position the team originally drafted him for, cornerback. Hester was allowed to keep 23 after the team converted him to wide receiver. Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Aaron Kampman wears number 74, which represented the position for which he was drafted, defensive end (or defensive tackle). Kampman moved to linebacker since his former team, the Green Bay Packers switched from 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense under the new defensive coordinator before the 2009 season (see Packers switch to from 4-3 to 3-4 defence).

Both current Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mike Furrey, wearing number 87, and New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss, wearing number 81, plays Safety and/or cornerback in some defensive packages by their respective teams. Baltimore Ravens tight end Edgar Jones wears number 84, but sometimes plays defensive end or outside linebacker, his original position when he signed with Baltimore in 2007. Informally, certain conventions still hold, and players usually wear numbers in the ranges similar to their NFL counterparts. The lowest numbers are often considered the most prestigious, and they are frequently worn not just by specialists and quarterbacks but also by running backs, defensive backs, and linebackers. Kickers and punters are frequently numbered in the 40s or 90s, which are the least in-demand numbers on a college roster. The increased flexibility in numbering of NCAA rosters is needed since NCAA rules allow larger rosters than the NFL; thus teams would frequently exhaust the available numbers for a position under the NFL rules. It is not uncommon for NCAA teams to have duplicate numbers, with an offensive player having the same number as a defensive one--this is allowed as long as both players are not on the field at the same time. Usually, one of the players will be a reserve who rarely plays, but this is not always the case: for example, the 2005 Texas Longhorns team had two key players who both wore #4: wide receiver Limas Sweed and linebacker Drew Kelson. The 2007 USC Trojans team had two key players who both wore #10: quarterback John David Booty and linebacker Brian Cushing. The 2008 Missouri Tigers both had key players wearing #1: safety William Moore and running back Jimmy Jackson. In the same season, the Alabama Crimson Tide had four numbers shared by two players each. In the 2009 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes roster also has numerous duplicate numbers: quarterback Terrelle Pryor and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins both wear #2, and running back Daniel Herron and linebacker Marcus Freeman both wear #1,[6] while USC has both running back C. J. Gable and safety Taylor Mays wearing number 2.

NCAA

Individual schools often have superstitions or traditions involving certain numbers. It may be a great honor to be given the number #1 uniform, for example, such as at the University of Michigan. The top performing walk-on at Texas A&M University will often be issued number 12, in reference to their 12th Man tradition. Syracuse University historically reserved number 44 for its best running backs, including Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little.[7] finally retiring the number permanently in 2005.[8] The number 12 is also prestigious at the University of Alabama. It is usually reserved for top quarterbacks, although it was worn by 1930s lineman Bear Bryant, who became a coaching legend at Alabama. Since Bryant's era, it has been worn by Kenny Stabler, Joe Namath, Brodie Croyle, and Greg McElroy. At Ole Miss, the #38 worn by defensive back Chucky Mullins, who suffered a paralyzing injury in a 1989 game that ultimately led to his death in 1991, was given each season as an award to a defensive player who was seen as epitomizing Mullins' spirit. The number was eventually retired in Mullins' memory in 2006.

High school

On high school and other lower youth teams, jerseys with different number ranges are different sizes, and since many of these teams don't reorder jerseys every year, players are often assigned numbers based more on jerseys that fit them rather than specific position (though the rules on numbering the offensive line still apply).[citation needed] Most high school players play both defense and offense, and numbers are typically assigned according to the player's offensive position, which means that the numbers worn on defense bear little connection to the numbering conventions used in the NFL or even in college.

Retired numbers

Most NFL teams have retired some numbers in honor of the team's best players. Generally when a number is retired, future players for the team may not wear it. However, exceptions have been made when a player with a retired number allows an active player to wear his number. It should be noted, however, that very rarely does the new player accept the offer. When the Kansas City Chiefs acquired Joe Montana in 1993, Hall of Famer Len Dawson gave Montana permission to wear his old #16, Montana's number in San Francisco, but Montana declined it and wore 19 instead, which was the sum of his numbers at Notre Dame (3) and the 49ers (16).

One exception offer that was accepted was made in 2004, when Steve Largent, whose #80 was retired by the Seattle Seahawks, allowed Jerry Rice to wear #80 when he briefly played for the team. Rice, a star who mostly played with the 49ers and Raiders, had also worn #80 throughout his career. Rice made the same gesture when the 49ers signed longtime St. Louis Rams wide receiver Issac Bruce. Rice offered Bruce the number, since Bruce had worn 80 during his 14-year stay with the Rams. (Though not officially retired, the 49ers have not issued #80 since Rice left the team in 2001.) However, both Bruce and the 49ers agreed on not wearing 80 as a 49er, and wore number 88 for the 2008 NFL season.

The 49ers made another exception for quarterback Trent Dilfer to wear number 12, which had been retired in honor of John Brodie. Dilfer, a close friend of Brodie, wore the number in tribute to him and to garner attention for Brodie's potential election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[citation needed]

Similarly, Detroit Lions linebacker Joe Schmidt allowed Pat Swilling to wear his retired number 56 when Swilling was acquired in 1993.[9]

The Chicago Bears have retired the most numbers (13), followed by the New York Giants (11). Some newer teams have yet to retire any.

The New Orleans Saints have retired the numbers 31 and 81 in honor of Jim Taylor and Doug Atkins, who played on the first Saints franchise in 1967. Strangely enough, neither Taylor nor Atkins has had their uniform numbers retired by the teams for which they played the vast majority of their careers before coming to the expansion Saints, Taylor with the Green Bay Packers and Atkins with the Bears. (Current All-Pro cornerback Al Harris, in fact, currently wears number 31 for the Packers.) Taylor played only one year with the Saints before retiring, while Atkins last three seasons were in the Big Easy.

The numbers 7, 12, 40, and 70 have each been retired by five teams, more than any other numbers.

One of the most notable retired numbers is number 12 for the Seattle Seahawks, who retired the number in 1984 in honor of the "12th man", or the Seahawks fans, as opposed to a particular player. Since then, the team sells number 12 jerseys with the word "Fan" where the player's last name would be.

The Indianapolis Colts have chosen to retain the retired status of numbers retired when the club was in Baltimore, a point which irritated former Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas.[citation needed] Incensed at the way former owner Robert Irsay moved the Colts out of town late at night on March 29, 1984, Unitas severed all ties to the Colts franchise and insisted he only be listed as a member of the "Baltimore Colts". Unitas was soon joined by teammates Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti, all of whom also had their numbers retired by the club in Baltimore. (Many of these players would later support the Baltimore Ravens.) The Colts have not retired a jersey number for any player who primarily played for the club in Indianapolis, nor has the club retired any further numbers of former Baltimore Colts.

Non-retirement policies

While the NFL does allow teams to retire jersey numbers, the league officially discourages retiring numbers, for fear of teams running out of numbers. As a result, a few NFL teams do not retire jersey numbers.

Oakland

The Oakland Raiders, along with the Houston Texans, are the only teams in the NFL that have not retired any numbers, officially or unofficially.[citation needed] Only Hall of Fame center Jim Otto's number, 00, has not been reissued by the Raiders, as the NFL banned the numbers 0 and 00 in 1973. As a result, the numbers worn by Hall of Fame inductees have been used by other players who followed, including Willie Brown's number 24 (currently worn by Michael Huff), George Blanda and Jim Plunkett's number 16 (worn by Andrew Walter), and Gene Upshaw's number 63 (worn by Mark Wilson).

Dallas

Like Oakland, Dallas's official policy is to not retire uniform numbers, although there are a few numbers that have been unofficially retired and have not been used since the retirement of prominent players wearing them. Perhaps most notably, Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin both wore number 88 with the Cowboys. It was most recently worn by Antonio Bryant in 2003 but has not been used since the NFL expanded numbering options for wide receivers in 2004. Emmitt Smith and former Olympic athlete Bob Hayes wore number 22 with the Cowboys, but the number has not been reissued since Smith left for Arizona in 2004.

Instead of retiring numbers, the Cowboys induct prominent players into a Ring of Honor, which originally ringed Texas Stadium and was transferred to the new Cowboys Stadium at its opening in 2009. Since their induction into the Ring of Honor, numbers 8 (Troy Aikman), 12 (Roger Staubach), 20 (Mel Renfro), 22 (Hayes and Smith), 43 (Cliff Harris), 54 (Randy White), 55 (Lee Roy Jordan), 70 (Rayfield Wright), 72 (Too Tall Jones), and 74 (Bob Lilly) have not been reissued or are rarely used.

Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Steelers also do not officially retire uniform numbers (the exception being Ernie Stautner, who played before the dynasty years of the 1970s). However, Terry Bradshaw's number 12, Franco Harris' number 32, Jerome Bettis' number 36, Mike Webster's number 52, Jack Lambert's number 58, Dermontti Dawson's number 63, and Joe Greene's number 75 have not been issued since those respective players retired, while Gary Anderson's number 1, Donnie Shell's number 31, Mel Blount's number 47, and Jack Ham's number 59 have had minimal usage since. Number 35 was worn by two Hall of Famers (Bill Dudley and John Henry Johnson) and was most recently worn by former fullback Dan Kreider in 2007.

John Stallworth's number 82 has been reissued several times as has Lynn Swann's number 88; this is mainly because of the limited number of numbers available for wide receivers and tight ends (until 2004, those positions could only wear numbers in the 80s). However, since the NFL relaxed the rule and started allowing receivers to wear jersey numbers 10-19 in addition to 80s numbers, number 82 has not been reissued at all since Antwaan Randle El left the team, while tight end Jon Dekker currently wears Swann's number 88.

Washington

The Washington Redskins have retired only one number, Sammy Baugh's number 33. However, numbers 7 (Joe Theismann), 9 (Sonny Jurgensen), 28 (Darrell Green), 42 (Charley Taylor), 43 (Larry Brown), 44 (John Riggins), 49 (Bobby Mitchell), 51 (Monte Coleman), 65 (Dave Butz), 70 (Sam Huff), and 81 (Art Monk) are considered unofficially retired. Following the fatal shooting of then current Redskins Safety Sean Taylor the Redskins unofficially retired number 21.

Buffalo

For many years, the Buffalo Bills never officially retired uniform numbers. This changed when Jim Kelly's number 12 was officially retired by the Bills in the early 2000s (although Joe Ferguson also prominently wore the number, and the team also honors the 12th man). O. J. Simpson (32), Thurman Thomas (34) and Bruce Smith (78) have not had their numbers issued since those players' retirements, and like Dallas, Buffalo has a "Wall of Fame" honoring some of their great players.

One number that was unofficially retired for most of the team's history was 31, which was reserved as a generic number for promotions and to represent the "spirit of the franchise." This policy was reversed in 1990 when the number was awarded to James "J.D." Williams; it has since been re-released to all players and is currently worn by free safety Jairus Byrd.

Number 1 has only been issued sparingly in the team's history (kicker Mike Hollis was the last to wear it), possibly out of deference to Tommy Hughitt, who wore the number with the early-era Buffalo teams in the 1920s.

Notre Dame

College football's Notre Dame Fighting Irish is one of the few college programs that does not retire jersey numbers. Upon being issued a number, each player is given a card which lists some of the more famous players who have worn that particular number. Number 3 is perhaps the most famous number in Irish football history, having been worn by Ralph Guglielmi, George Izo, Daryle Lamonica, Coley O'Brien, Joe Montana, Rick Mirer, Ron Powlus, and Darius Walker, among others.[10] It is currently worn by wide receiver Michael Floyd. Number 5 is also notable, as it is the only number to be worn by one of the Four Horsemen (Elmer Layden), a Heisman Trophy winner (Paul Hornung), and a national championship-winning quarterback (Terry Hanratty).[10] Number 7 has been worn by such Irish greats as 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte, 1970 Heisman runner-up Joe Theismann, Steve Beuerlein, and Jarious Jackson.[10] It has most recently been worn by quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

References

  1. ^ Packers.com » History » Record Book » Results And Rosters » All Time Jersey Numbers
  2. ^ a b Football 101 - Uniform Numbering System
  3. ^ NFL Rules Changes for the 2004 NFL Season
  4. ^ ESPN - NFL won't change numbering system for Bush - NFL
  5. ^ [1] Boston Herald, February 18, 2009-Former Giants linebacker Brad Van Pelt dies Retrieved February 18, 2009
  6. ^ "What's the deal with duplicate numbers?". Birmingham News. http://blog.al.com/rapsheet/2008/09/whats_the_deal_with_duplicate.html. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  7. ^ Syracuse University
  8. ^ "The Legend of #44". Syracuse University Athletics. http://www.suathletics.com/Sports/Football/2006/fb44bios.asp. Retrieved February 19, 2007. 
  9. ^ Stone, Mike; Regner, Art (2008). The Great Book of Detroit Sports Lists. Running Press. p. 283. ISBN 076243354X. http://books.google.com/books?id=AUZyxLK85iIC&pg=PT283&lpg=PT283. 
  10. ^ a b c "ND Archives: All-Time Roster". und.cstv.com. http://und.cstv.com/auto_pdf/p_hotos/s_chools/nd/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/FBRecSuppAll-TimeRoster. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 

Simple English

In American football, uniform numbers are special numbers added to jerseys or other types of clothing to tell players from each other. They are shown in more places on the uniform than in those of other sports.


Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message