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NFL owners approve change to jersey-number restrictions


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Your favorite Broncos could soon have a new look.

NFL owners approved a rule change on Wednesday to the league's uniform number restrictions, and it could free up several players on the team to return to their collegiate digits.

The newly passed rule will allow a new subset of players to wear single-digit jersey numbers. Previously, only quarterbacks, kickers and punters could wear numbers in the single digits.

Running backs, tight ends, fullbacks, wide receivers, defensive backs and linebackers will now also be able to wear single-digit jersey numbers.

The Broncos have several players that could take advantage of the rule change, including Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Bradley Chubb. Jeudy wore No. 4 at Alabama, Hamler donned No. 1 at Penn State and Chubb was No. 9 at NC State. No Broncos player has yet confirmed that they intend to change their number.

An existing NFL rule would likely require the players to buy out the existing stock of their current jersey number in order to make the switch for the 2021 season. If a player declares now that they wish to switch for the 2022 season, he would not have to pay to buy out that stock.

The new rule was proposed by the Chiefs, and it reportedly aimed to give teams more flexibility to assign jerseys in light of increased practice-squad sizes in 2020.

Running backs, tight ends, fullbacks and wide receivers can now wear numbers 1-49 and 80-89; offensive linemen can wear 50-79; defensive linemen can wear 50-79 and 90-99; linebackers can wear 1-59 and 90-99; and defensive backs can wear 1-49. Quarterbacks, kickers and punters will continue to wear 1-19.

The NFL passed several other rules changes on Wednesday:

  • Preseason games will no longer go to overtime if the game is tied at the end of regulation.
  • During an onside kick, the receiving team will have a limited number of players that can be in the "setup zone." The rule was intended to help kicking teams recover more onside kicks, and it will be implemented on a one-year trial basis.
  • Replay officials and other designated members of the officiating department can now provide increased information from the booth to on-field officials.
  • A second forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage and a pass thrown after the ball returns behind the line will both result in the loss of down.
  • The enforcement of accepted penalties during a one-point or two-point try has changed. The rule change, suggested by Chicago after the Bears suffered from an unusual series of penalties against Denver in 2019, would enforce penalties equally.

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