Pick a Number: NFL players relish new single-digit identity | Football

EAGAN, Minnesota (AP) – When Patrick Peterson discovered the NFL rule change expanding the ranges of jersey numbers players are allowed to wear, he quickly contacted one of his new Minnesota Vikings teammates.

The eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback wanted his loyal No.7 again, having been forced to take No.21 when he entered the league. Backup quarterback Nate Stanley had no problem giving up and taking No.14 instead.

“He said yes. All I had to do was bring shoulder pads to his dad’s team in high school,” Peterson said. “I said, ‘Done!'”

While the boys in Menomonie, the hometown of Stanley, Wisconsin, should be a little better protected as they block and attack under the lights this fall, Peterson will feel a little more at ease himself in the single-digit identity he has forged for himself. at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla., then college at LSU.

“I was known by that number, and I think if you’re known by a number, nine times out of 10 you’re a great player,” said Peterson, pointing to the number 2 worn by the Temple cornerback. Deion fame. Sanders in Florida State and the No. 21 he wore as a pro. “When you see this number, you see this person. I’m just happy to finally be not only back in purple but wearing # 7 as well.

The updated guidelines approved by the league this spring opened the numbers 1 to 19 to running backs and defensive backs, which were previously limited to numbers 20 to 49. Running backs can now choose between 80 and 89. Wide receivers also have obtained the rights to single-digit digits, having previously been split between 10-19 and 80-89. Tight ends were previously assigned 40-49 and 80-89, but now they can also take 1-39. Linebackers were also admitted to the single-digit club and allowed to take 20-39 on top of their usual 40-59 and 90-99.

The ranges for quarterbacks and specialists (1-19), offensive linemen (50-79) and defensive linemen (50-79 and 90-99) have not changed, although crosses, guards and tackles are now mixed. The first was limited to 50-59, the second 60-79.

Temporary deviations from the post-by-post guidelines are allowed during spring and summer practice when the rosters are larger, but unless the commissioner grants special permission, the rules must be followed during the season. regular.

Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who signed with the club this summer and was not inspired by the number 67 offered to him, picked the number 9 for training camp. He’s going to have to choose something else in September, slightly upset that linebackers can post single-digit numbers, but linemen can’t.

“I really don’t care about the numbers, but I wasn’t wearing 67,” Richardson said. “We’ll see what happens.”

For this year alone, players looking to change numbers within the allowed ranges for their position had to first purchase any remaining inventory of their own jerseys through official NFL distributors. They sell for around $ 200 on average, so there could be a second wave of switches next year once the Tab is gone.

Still, there were plenty of players, including plenty of cornerbacks like Peterson, who immediately signed up for a fresh start.

Los Angeles Ramsey cornerback Jalen Ramsey had previously hesitated over the asking price of a change while with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but now that the single-digit numbers were on the line, he took the No.5 in favor of his old No.20. Ramsey’s first pick was No.2, but he gave in to wide receiver Robert Woods, who dismissed No.17.

“The reason I wanted number 2 was to really remind myself that I’m second, like in life. I wanted to put others before me, ”said Ramsey, who playfully exchanged photos earlier this year with Woods of them each wearing number 2 in the Pop Warner youth games.

Woods, from Los Angeles, wanted to wear his original number as inspiration for kids playing the game he once played in the same city.

Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner left his No.30 behind with the Pittsburgh Steelers and picked No.6 with his new team – a career first.

“It’s just a change. I think it looks good on the uniforms too. But I have to play well in this. It’s the first, ”Conner said.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown went from No.15 to No.5 he carried in the peewee ball to emulate Reggie Bush, who was then a star running back for USC.

Carolina Panthers rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn took No.8 right out of his NFL career in memory of his favorite NBA player, the late Kobe Bryant.

New England Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills switched from the Philadelphia Eagles and moved from No.21 to No.2, to honor his late uncle’s favorite number.

“He wasn’t much of a sports fan, but every time I played he looked at me. Hope I just wanted to represent him with that, ”Mills said.

Another Patriots newcomer, linebacker Matt Judon, left No.99 behind the Baltimore Ravens and picked No.9 to match his varsity jersey number – and family.

“I am one of 10 children, so I have nine siblings. Every time I go there, I represent them, ”said Judon. “I like nine. This is one of the reasons I am going for it.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap wore number 96 with the Cincinnati Bengals, but it’s Cortez Kennedy’s retired number, so he had to choose something else when he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks last season. After wearing number 43 at the time, he now wears number 8, as he did 12 years ago during his last college season in Florida. This is Dunlap’s 12th year in the NFL.

“I felt like that was a sign, that it was an opportunity in Year 12 with the 12s,” he said, referring to the digital moniker that Seahawks fans have adopted.

But wait, it’s even better.

“I had eight throughout my high school so that’s my number,” Dunlap said.

“Eight has surrounded my life if you all want me to go this far. There are eight in my birthday, eight in my license plate. When they randomly pick my hotel room, either it’s eight or there’s an eight. Coincidentally, last year I was 43, 8-4-3. Eight times 12 is 96. I mean, I can go on.

AP Sports Editors Tim Booth, David Brandt, Kyle Hightower, Steve Reed, Noah Trister and AP Freelance Writer Dan Greenspan contributed to this report.

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