Ja'Whaun Bentley is first Patriots player to switch to single-digit number

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Will Patriots LB start a trend in Foxboro after number change? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Ja'Whaun Bentley will either be a trend-setter or an outlier in New England this season.

The Patriots linebacker revealed Friday on Twitter he's switching uniform numbers from 51 to 8.

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That's notable because Bentley is the first Patriots player to take advantage of a rule change passed by NFL owners last month allowing any player not on the offensive or defensive line to wear Nos. 1 through 19.

It's a popular rule change among most players, many of whom have already switched to single digits. But notable critics include former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- who believes the rule change will result in "bad football" by making defenders harder to identify by position -- and current Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who reportedly "hates" the new rule.

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That may explain why no Patriots players had switched numbers prior to Bentley's announcement. The veteran linebacker appears to have the support of his teammates, however: Safety Adrian Phillips tweeted his approval, while defensive backs Kyle Dugger, J.C. Jackson and Joejuan Williams and linebacker Anfernee Jennings did the same on Instagram.

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So, maybe more Patriots players will follow Bentley's lead now that he's broken the ice in New England. If not, Bentley will be very easy to identify as the only New England defender with a single-digit uniform number.