SE+ Perspective | a perspective on sports matters

NFL Rule Changes: Jersey Numbers, Replays, More

The owners of each NFL franchise voted on a number of rule changes on Wednesday, surrounding expanded jersey numbers and officiating changes. Following the COVID-ridden 2020 season and the many controversies surrounding officiating and challenge questions, the league recognized that there needs to be some level of changes.

The NFL has a long history of staying true to its traditions and keeping the culture of the league consistent with the way it’s always been done. However, the league is finally recognizing the need for small changes that can make a big difference in the game of football.

One of the new rules team owners voted on would give the on-field officiating crews access to even more information during games. The replay officials off the field would also be allowed to give information to the on-field officials that was otherwise considered objective. This rule was originally proposed by the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL’s competition committee, and the coaches subcommittee.

One of the NFL’s competition committee chairmen, Rich McKay, said that the improved replay rule will create a balance between “more cumbersome replay intervention on all plays and correcting obvious wrong calls.” This rule change is critical following the past few seasons where many controversial plays and calls were either left uncalled by officials or the on-field crew called too many penalties that many fans would argue were not penalties to begin with.

Another change to the league is the expansion of jersey numbers, proposed by the Kansas City Chiefs. Teams can now give active players single-digit jersey numbers, which could lead to a drastic spike in sales, so long as enough top players opt-in to change jersey numbers. Fans will likely want to update their player memorabilia, allowing fans to continue their connection with their favorite players.

The new rule will allow quarterbacks, punters, and kickers to wear numbers 1-19; running backs, tight ends, fullbacks, halfbacks, wide receivers, and defensive backs to wear numbers 1-49 and 80-89; linebackers to wear numbers 1-59 and 90-99; offensive linemen to wear numbers 50-79; and defensive linemen to wear numbers 50-79 and 90-99.

The NFL has historically grouped jersey numbers by position, like running backs numbered between the 20s and 40s, but the league opted to expand the jersey numbers, partly due to COVID-19 affecting practice squads, but mainly because of the pressure from some of the players.

While the jersey expansion approval has caused much excitement from a lot of players, not everyone is too pleased. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady voiced his dissatisfaction on Instagram, saying the expansion is “going to make for a lot of bad football.”

Brady elaborated on his comments, saying that positions are grouped by numbers so that both offensive and defensive players can identify who they are protecting or defending, adding that there’s no point to the rule if the league continues to expand it.


The other rules the NFL owners voted and approved of on Wednesday include the elimination of overtime in preseason games; a maximum number of players in the “setup zone,” the area between 10 and 25 yards from the location, which will make onside kicks easier to recover; the enforcement of all penalties that have been committed by either team during successful attempts; no more double passes; and each team is now required to share who has visited and tried out for them with the other 31 NFL teams from training camp until the Super Bowl.

The NFL changing some of its rules prior to the 2021 training camp and season is a massive step in the evolution of the sport and league, in order to develop alongside its players. If the football juggernaut can bend and recognize the changes they need to make, then traditions in your business can also make the changes you need to in order to grow and develop.

Did you enjoy this article about the NFL rule changes? Check out more football content on SportsE+ HERE