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The proposal by Kansas City is pretty simple. It would loosen the restrictions on single-digit jersey numbers to allow running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, fullbacks, linebackers and defensive backs to wear them. Right now, single-digit numbers are reserved for only quarterbacks, punters and kickers, which make up a very small portion of the team.
According to the MMQB’s Albert Breer, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach is actually the driving force behind the team’s recent proposal. Why is he so gung-ho on expanding the use of single-digit numbers, though? At one point last season, Kansas City ran out of jersey numbers that they could use per Breer.
The Chiefs have 10 retired jerseys and one that is unofficially retired in Joe Delaney’s No. 37. The NFL expanded practice squads to 16 players in 2020 due to COVID-19 and it sounds like that change is sticking around. Then you’ve got to account for the 53-man roster and suddenly you have 80 jersey numbers to account for. If the team didn’t have the right combination of players at the right positions, running out of jersey numbers is entirely feasible.
Teams like the Giants and the Bears, who each have 14 retired jersey numbers also likely had some problems last season. They could be among the key supporters of this newly proposed rule. The jersey number logjam for the Chiefs probably came because of the overlap of Nos. 20-49 at the linebacker, running back and defensive back positions. They also had a ton of receivers on the practice squad in 2020, which probably made things difficult. The newly proposed changes from Kansas City would solve this issue for the Chiefs and for any other team that has a lot of retired jerseys.
Really the only reason these jersey restrictions are in place is to help the officials know who is and who isn’t an eligible receiver. That shouldn’t get any more difficult by opening up the single-digit numbers for more positions.