It came some 18 years too late for Larry Fitzgerald – assuming Fitz decides to keep playing – but single digit uniform numbers are again in play for wide receivers after the NFL changed its rules Wednesday.
The decision by owners' vote opens up those single digits to a host of new positions, actually, harkening back to the days when Cardinals Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson patrolled the secondary wearing No. 8.
Fitzgerald wore No. 1 in college and switched to No. 11 when drafted because single digits were prohibited for wideouts.
Here are the jersey numbers now available for each position:
- QB, P, K 1-19
- RB, FB, TE, H-back, WR 1-49, 80-89
- OL 50-79
- DL 50-79, 90-99
- LB 1-59, 90-99
- DB 1-49
For the Cardinals, jerseys No. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9 are all available. Kyler Murray wears No. 1, punter Andy Lee has No. 4, and No. 8, of course, is retired for Wilson.
The Cards also have 24 players on the roster without an official number yet, 17 of whom now qualify for single digits. Among them, kicker Matt Prater, quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Cole McDonald and wide receiver A.J. Green.
Players could in theory switch from their current numbers, but as with any year, players who would want to change in 2021 would have to buy existing inventory of jerseys sold to fans. The higher profile player, the more jerseys out there. Safety Budda Baker, for instance, went through that when he switched from No. 36 to No. 32.
If a player decides now to wait to switch until 2022, they do not have to buy anything back.
The rule change also passed to eliminate overtime in the preseason, so regulation ties are now available (although I'd still expect a team trailing by one after a late touchdown to go for two, if for no other reason than to get experience in that way.)
Also approved was increased communication between the replay and booth officials to on-field officials, "to provide certain objective information."
The other two changes adjusted the penalties for an illegal forward pass and on extra-point attempts. There will be a one-year experiment shrinking the number of players from the receiving team in the box (by one) on onside kick attempts, in an effort to make it a little easier for the kicking team to recover.