NFL jersey number rule change could bring back classic college football looks for Derrick Henry, Jalen Ramsey and others


NFL owners on Wednesday approved a rule change proposed by the Kansas City Chiefs that relaxes jersey number rules. Get ready for a lot more players wearing single digit jerseys.

Currently, running backs, receivers, linebackers, tight ends, and defensive backs must wear uniform numbers within a certain numerical range. The change means that all single digit cool uniforms that only kickers, punters and QBs can wear are now allowed on more players. It also means uniform numbers will look a lot more like college, where there are no such regulations and pretty much anyone can wear any number.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, under NFL rules, if a player wants to change his number this season, he’ll have to buy out existing inventory from jersey distributors. If he wants to give notice now to change his number next season, there will be no need to buy back inventory.

The change would allow many of the NFL’s top players to recapture the looks they wore in college. If players want to change, here’s what some might look like:

Cleveland Browns BY Myles Garrett

Number: 96 to 15?

Garrett, wearing No. 15 with the Aggies, was a two-time All-America selection and had 47 career sacks before being the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the Browns, Garrett has 42, 5 career sacks and was an All-Pro in 2020.


Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry

Number: 22 to 2?

In 2015, Henry won the Heisman Trophy and led Alabama to a national title. In his final season with the Crimson Tide, Henry rushed for 2,219 yards and 28 scores. Tennessee drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft. Henry added another 2,000-yard rushing season in 2020, when he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year.


Los Angeles Rams Jalen Ramsey DB

Number: 20 to 8?

Ramsey started out as a true freshman and won the 2013 BCS National title while at Florida State. He was an All-American in 2015 before being drafted No. 5 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016. With the Jags, he made it to the 2017 AFC Championship Game before going to the Rams. He is now the highest paid defensive back in the NFL.


New England Patriots DB Stephon Gilmore

Number: 24 to 5?

At South Carolina, Gilmore was a two-time All-SEC player before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2012. Gilmore joined the Patriots in 2017 and since then has won a Super Bowl, won the defensive player of the year. and been a two-time All-Pro.


Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

Number: 22 to 5?

At Stanford, McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ college record for all-around yards and had nearly 7,000 total yards during his college career. He also holds Stanford’s single-game rushing record and the Rose Bowl record for all-purpose yards. He was chosen in the first round by Carolina. With the Panthers, he had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2018 and 2019 before an ankle injury cut short his 2020 season.


Some players have taken to social media to discuss the number changes:

Previous 2021 NFL jersey update: Bengals unveil new uniforms for 2021 season
Next Tom Brady denounces NFL jersey number rule: "Dumb"