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Why Can’t NFL Players Wear Number 0?
The number 0 is a rare and controversial jersey number in American football. While it is allowed in college football, it is not permitted in the NFL. But why is that? And what are the exceptions to this rule? Here are some answers to these questions and more.
The History of Number 0
The number 0 was first used by football players in the early days of the sport, when there were no official rules on jersey numbers. Some players chose 0 as a way to stand out or to express their individuality. Others wore it because they played multiple positions or because they did not have a preference for any other number.
Some of the notable players who wore 0 in the past include:
- Lou Eaton, a halfback for the Chicago Cardinals in 1945.
- Obert Logan, a safety for the New Orleans Saints in 1967. He was the last player to wear 0 in the NFL before it was banned.
- Johnny Olszewski, a fullback for the Chicago Cardinals, Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1962. He wore 0 because he was nicknamed “Johnny O”.
- Reb Russell, a halfback for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) in 1933. He wore 0 because he was a rookie and did not want to take a veteran’s number.
The Ban on Number 0
In 1973, the NFL adopted a new system of jersey numbers based on the player’s position. This was done to make it easier for officials, coaches, and fans to identify players on the field. According to this system, quarterbacks, kickers and punters had to wear numbers from 1 to 19, running backs and defensive backs from 20 to 49, wide receivers from 10 to 19 and 80 to 89, tight ends from 40 to 49 and 80 to 89, offensive linemen from 50 to 79, defensive linemen from 60 to 79 and linebackers from 50 to 59 and 90 to 99.
The number 0 was not assigned to any position group, and thus became illegal for NFL players to wear. The only exception was if a player had worn 0 before the rule change and wanted to keep it. However, no player chose to do so, and the number became extinct in the NFL.
The Return of Number 0
In April 2021, the NFL approved a proposal by the Kansas City Chiefs to relax the jersey number rules and allow more flexibility for players. This was done in response to the increased use of eligible receivers wearing ineligible numbers and vice versa, which created confusion and unfair advantages for some teams.
According to the new rules, quarterbacks, kickers, and punters can still wear numbers from 1 to 19, but running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, defensive backs, and linebackers can now wear numbers from 1 to 49. Offensive linemen can wear numbers from 50 to 79, defensive linemen from 50 to 79 and 90 to 99, and linebackers from 1 to 59 and 90 to 99.
The new rules also allow players who want to change their jersey numbers to do so without having to buy out their existing inventory of jerseys. However, they have to notify the league by May of each year.
The number 0 is still not officially allowed by the NFL, but some players have expressed interest in wearing it or have already worn it during preseason games or practices. Some of these players include:
- Braxton Berrios is a wide receiver for the New York Jets. He wore 0 during training camp in August 2021 and said he would like to keep it if possible.
- Darion Clark is a tight end for the Chicago Bears. He wore 0 during preseason games in August 2019 and said he chose it because he liked how it looked.
- Chris Streveler, a quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. He wore 0 during preseason games in August 2019 and said he picked it because he had worn it in college at South Dakota.
Here are some other common questions about NFL players wearing number 0:
Can NFL players wear double zero?
No, they cannot. The NFL also banned the number double zero (00) in 1973 for the same reasons as the number zero (0). The last player to wear double zero in the NFL was Jim Otto, a center for the Oakland Raiders from 1960 to 1947. He wore it because his last name sounded like “O”.
Can college football players wear the number zero?
Yes, they can. The NCAA has no restrictions on jersey numbers for college football players. The number zero became popular among college football players after the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved it in April 2020
Some of the notable players who have worn zero in college football include:
- Jalen Hurts , a quarterback for Oklahoma in 2019. He wore zero because he wanted to start fresh after transferring from Alabama. - Penei Sewell, an offensive tackle for Oregon in 2019. He wore zero because he wanted to honor his Polynesian heritage and culture. - Jalen Ramsey, a cornerback for Florida State in 2015. He wore zero because he wanted to make a statement and show his confidence.
Can other sports players wear the number zero?
Yes, they can. The number zero is allowed and widely used by players in other sports such as basketball, baseball, soccer, and hockey. Some of the famous athletes who have worn zero include:
The number zero is a unique and intriguing jersey number that has a long and complex history in American football. While it is currently not allowed by the NFL, some players have shown interest in wearing it or have already worn it unofficially. It remains to be seen if the NFL will ever change its rules and allow players to wear zero legally.
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