December 7, 2023

Bucs Life

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What’s in a Number?

2 min read

It’s funny, isn’t it?

Just one or two digits between 1 and 99 can define not only a player but a career. If you think about the great Warren Sapp, I bet you’re thinking of the number 99 (you probably thought of Sapp the first time you read 99), or think of Tom Brady without the number 12.

Players are possessive over their number and often take it with them when they move via trade or free agency. Sometimes a player is able to keep their number from college, sometimes this isn’t possible due to the NFL rules on numbering by position.

Reggie Bush was drafted in 2006 by the Saints out of USC, where Bush wore number 5. The RB made a special request to the NFL to wear his college number; however, this was declined due to the numbering system.

As more players join the league, certain rules have been relaxed. Wide receivers can now wear a number between 10 and 19 instead of only between 80 and 89. Other such changes are happening around the league.

But what of “sacred” numbers? Certain numbers are synonymous with certain players. Every franchise in the league has those players. Sometimes those players numbers are retired officially and sometimes it’s unofficial but accepted the famous number isn’t being given out.

Which causes a problem eventually. Certain players can only wear certain numbers. What then happens when all available numbers cease to become available?

This issue has come to the fore here in Tampa when new draftee, Devin White expressed his desire to keep his college number 40 into the NFL. Some fans simply shrugged. Some remarked, “I thought linebackers had to wear a number in the ’50s?” A significant section of Bucs fans was seeing levels of anger that could lead to a coronary event. Why?

Mike Alstott. The A-Train. Alstott is a much-loved figure in the Bay Area and the thought of another player wearing his number 40 is too unpalatable.

The situation seems to be resolved for now as White has stated that he will be wearing 41 but might still speak to Alstott about that number 40.

After all, isn’t it just a number?

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