According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, if a player wishes to change his number under the new regulations in 2021, the first season with the new rules in force, he must buy out the current inventory of his former jersey from authorised distributors. If he does not do so, then he will be prohibited from wearing that number again.
The new rule was introduced by the NFL in response to a number of changes made to its uniform design over the past few years. Among other things, the league wanted to make its uniforms more affordable while still maintaining their quality and prestige.
Number changes have been popular in sports for decades; even before the NFL-outfit era, players often changed numbers to match the year they were drafted or to honor famous coaches or teammates. There have also been many number switches during their careers, usually due to a shortage up until the late 1960s. From 1970 onwards, however, the NFL started requiring players to wear the same number throughout their career. This is now one of the only restrictions placed on them.
Under the old rules, if a player wanted to switch numbers he had two options: retire and have your contract purchased by the team you used to play for, or wait until after one season to try out another number.
For many years, NFL players have been limited to specific jersey numbers based on their position. That will change in 2021, however. The Kansas City Chiefs' latest request to ease jersey number requirements was approved by NFL owners this week. Here are the rules as announced by the league:
All non-kickers can be any single digit except 1 and 9; those numbers are reserved for kickers.
There is no limit on the number of times a player can wear a numbered jersey. For example, a player can keep wearing 51 even after it has been assigned to someone else. The only restriction is that a player can't wear two different jerseys with the same number.
Here are this year's jersey numbers (with the exception of quarterbacks, who will be discussed below):
0 - Kicker
1 - Left guard or left tackle
2 - Center
3 - Right guard or right tackle
4 - Running back
5 - Wide receiver
6 - Tight end
7 - Defensive lineman
8 - Linebacker
9 - Quarterback
The NFL has accepted six new playing rules and one bylaw amendment for the 2021 season. The extension of jersey number possibilities for specific positions is one of the most significant developments. Numbers 50-79 and 90-99 are available for defensive linemen....
The customary number of players in a contemporary 4-2-3-1 configuration is as follows: A football player's position is generally denoted by his or her jersey number. Despite the formation of squad numbers, jerseys 1 through 11 are frequently assigned to the starting lineup based on their places on the field.
Because assigning jersey numbers based on football position is a tradition rather than a rule, teams are free to assign numbers to their players as they see fit. As previously stated, the number one shirt is normally allocated to the first-choice goalkeeper.
Virginia does not assign jersey numbers unless a player has earned them. DEPTH CHARTS AND ROSTERS ARE VOLATILE AND ARE BEING UPDATED RIGHT NOW. There are always moving pieces in a system. Virginia's roster now stands at 98 players, which is the most recent figure available.
When a player signs with Virginia, he receives a number between 1 and 99. If a player drops out of school, that number becomes available again. New players can be assigned any number between 1 and 99; however, if there is an open spot on the team, coaches will usually give it to one of the players who was scheduled to go into the program but withdrew themselves.
Currently, only five players have numbers in the 30s: LB Cooper Neill (29), DE Deon Hollingsworth (30), DT Jaylen Rowell (31), S Jalen Hampton (32), and CB Trayvon Mullen (33). Only three players have numbers in the 20s: RB Justin Fuente (20), WR Marquis Spruill (21), and WR Jontel Evans (22). And only two players have numbers in the 10s: DL Torrey Tiongson (10) and LB Jake Olson (11).
According to Rule 5, Section 3, Article 3c (see NOTE 1), all players must wear numerals on their jerseys, and such numerals must be assigned by playing position as follows: quarterbacks, punters, and placekickers, 1–19 (and 10–19 for wide receivers if 80–89 are all otherwise assigned); running backs and defensive backs, 20–29. Fullback James Davis does not have a number; he is listed as F.B.
During the preseason, a team will typically give its first-stringers numbers in the low 20s or high 30s. This allows those players to earn valuable game experience while still being recognized among their teammates and opponents as part of the first string.
In addition to their regular-season uniforms, some teams also wear special uniforms that include the player's name on the back of his jersey. These "name" jerseys are often worn in honor of or in memory of someone who has died (such as Joe Montana after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a game he was playing on October 12, 2012). Other times they are used as promotional items or simply because there isn't enough room for the regular-season numbers on the front of the jersey.
Teams usually give out the first-string numbers in order from least to most important, so the lowest number available goes to the quarterback.