NFL approves rule proposed by Chiefs loosening restrictions on jersey numbers


NEW YORK — In a meeting of NFL owners, they discussed and voted on potential rule changes proposed by teams around the league.

A rule proposed by the Kansas City Chiefs to relax restrictions on jersey numbers by position was approved and will go into effect for the 2021 season. In summary, the updated rule would be as follows:

  1. Quarterbacks, punters and placekickers: 1-19
  2. Defensive backs: 1-49
  3. Running backs, full backs, tight ends, h-backs and wide receivers: 1-49 and 80-89
  4. Offensive linemen: 50-79
  5. Defensive linemen: 50-79 and 90-99
  6. Linebackers 1-59 and 90-99

It seems to be an aesthetic rule change, but many players were limited to their choice of numbers once they left college and joined the professional ranks.

Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu wore No. 14 and, more famously, No. 7 during his time with the LSU Tigers.

When he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, league rules limited his selection to numbers between 20-49 and the All-Pro safety ended with No. 32, the same number he wore with the Houston Texans and currently wears with the Chiefs.

The topic of number changes has been running through the league and Mathieu tweeted that he does plan on changing numbers, but he did not need this rule change to do so.

Mathieu, entering his ninth season in the NFL, said he will be switching to No. 21 in his 10th year as a pro.

In a since-deleted tweet response to a fan, Mathieu said, “I hate to break y’all heart but I will not be wearing #7. I have other plans, just stay on this journey with me it will all make sense. Every # is a personal choice & one that will tell a story.”

Even if he did want to go back to No. 7, that number is currently occupied by kicker Harrison Butker.

Mathieu is not alone in hinting about changing his jersey number.

Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. will be entering his second year in the NFL and currently wears No. 50. In response to a tweet about the proposal before it was voted on, Gay replied with laughter, a smiling emoji with horns and the sole digit “6”. He wore the number while at Mississippi State.

The Chiefs currently have over 20 numbers available for players and have eight players that still need to be designated one.

Nos. 3, 16, 18, 28, 33, 36, 58, 63, 78 and 86 have all been retired by the organization.

Around the league, other players have also reacted to the possibility of changing numbers.

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