As expected, NFL owners on Wednesday approved a new rule loosening restrictions on which jersey numbers players can wear. However, don’t expect to see a bunch of stars rushing to get numbers that weren’t available to them before.
Under the new rules, a much larger group of players can wear numbers in the single digits, including running backs, tight ends, defensive backs and linebackers. However, an already existing rule about player jersey number changes is likely to preclude a large amount of initial changes.
Under current NFL policy, any player who wishes to change his jersey number for the upcoming season is required to purchase all unsold jerseys with the player’s old number on them, if such an inventory exists. The league recently affirmed to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio that this rule would still be enforced upon passage of the new number rule.
In other words, if a player popular enough to have his jersey well-stocked were to change his number, he would have to pay for all of those outdated jerseys. For a big-name player, that could end up being a pretty significant sum of money and is likely to make him think twice about the potential change.
For many players, the rule change won’t really matter unless or until they change teams. After all, some guys are really attached to the numbers they have now.