NFL approves rule to relax jersey number restrictions for certain positions


Ravens fans wanting to buy a new jersey might want to delay their purchase for a bit as the NFL officially approved a new rule that relaxes jersey number restrictions for certain positions on Wednesday.

Might J.K. Dobbins switch to the No. 2 he wore as a star running back at Ohio State?

Would wide receiver Marquise Brown lobby to wear the No. 5 that hasn’t been issued by Baltimore since Joe Flacco’s departure a couple years ago?

Despite wearing No. 22 in the NFL for a decade, would veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith consider donning the No. 3 he had at Colorado and still occasionally wears during practices in Owings Mills?

The league adopted the relaxed jersey rule proposed by Kansas City in response to practice squads being expanded to 16 players last season and teams not having enough number flexibility for larger rosters. The changes are headlined by running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, linebackers, and defensive backs now being permitted to wear single-digit numbers, which were previously reserved only for quarterbacks, kickers, and punters.

Below are the new jersey number parameters by position:

Quarterbacks, kickers, and punters: 1-19
Running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers: 1-49, 80-89
Offensive linemen: 50-79
Defensive linemen: 50-79, 90-99
Linebackers: 1-59, 90-99
Cornerbacks and safeties: 1-49

According to preexisting rules, it’s worth noting any player wishing to change his jersey number for the upcoming season is required to buy out the jersey inventory of the league’s manufacturing partners. And that’s not even considering what it could cost to “buy” a number from a teammate.

It remains to be seen just how many Ravens veterans will be serious about changing their current jersey numbers, but safety DeShon Elliott wasted no time reaching out to Sam Koch on Twitter to discuss the No. 4 the longtime punter has worn since being drafted by Baltimore 15 years ago. Elliott wore the same number at the University of Texas while Koch wore No. 37 at Nebraska, a number a punter still isn’t permitted to wear in the NFL.

Elliott may have an easier time lobbying for his old college number than second-year inside linebacker and former LSU standout Patrick Queen, who donned the same numeral as a certain former NFL MVP who’s quite popular in Baltimore and around the league. The 2020 first-round pick has made clear his inquiries on Twitter weren’t serious after more than a few fans having invested in Lamar Jackson No. 8 jerseys probably took exception to the possibility.

The league also announced new rules expanding the influence of the replay official in the upstairs booth, eliminating overtime in preseason games, establishing a maximum number of players for the receiving team’s setup zone for onside kicks, adding a loss of down if two passes are completed behind the line of scrimmage, and enforcing all accepted penalties during successive try attempts.