Chad Ochocinco(notes) had considered wearing Chris Henry's number Sunday to commemorate his late Cincinnati Bengals teammate. Instead, he honored his fallen friend in a much more understated way: By scoring a touchdown and solemnly placing his hand over his heart. It was as un-Ochocinco as it gets, and that's what made the gesture so touching.
The colorful receiver decided not to wear Henry's No. 15 against the San Diego Chargers because he didn't want the inevitable uproar (caused by the NFL's unwavering rigidness) to overshadow the death of his teammate. Because the topic had come up this week, Ochocinco figured it wasn't worth the trouble. He made the right decision.
Brandon Marshall(notes) did too. The Denver Broncos receiver wore Henry's nameplate and No. 15 during pre-game warm-ups, before switching over to his regular jersey for the game. He'll doubtlessly be fined for the action, but since there wasn't as much public premeditation in the act (and because his NFL rap sheet isn't as lengthy) it shouldn't be as much Ochocinco would have received.
The NFL has a point in its reluctance to let players make their own tributes. If there wasn't a rule, you might see 50 players a week with different markings on their shoes or irregular nameplates or clashing helmet decals. But special circumstances arise (like when Peyton Manning(notes) wanted to wear black shoes to honor Johnny Unitas) and the NFL should be cognizant of these and make exceptions.
My guess is that the NFL is worried about the public relations hit it would take when one request was denied and another is allowed. It's a reasonable concern. And because it led to one of the nicest touchdown celebrations you'll ever see today, maybe it's not as bad as it seems.