National Football League uniform numbers

Under the standard rules of American football, players in the National Football League wear uniform numbers between 1 and 99, and no two players may wear the same number on the field at the same time. Additionally, those wearing 50 to 79 are prohibited from catching or touching forward passes if their team is in possession of the ball, unless explicitly indicated to the referee during a Tackle-eligible play. In addition to these standard stipulations, the NFL requires players numbers to be within a certain range according to their primary position, although exceptions exist. Numbers can be retired, but the practice is discouraged by the NFL.

The NFL's numbering system has evolved since the earliest days of the league when rosters only numbered 22 players, adapting to cope with increasing size of rosters and the evolution of positions and formations. The current position allocation system was largely adopted in 1973, with some minor subsequent alterations having been made due to the issue of numbers being retired or due to the changing tactics of teams.


Prior to 1973

The earliest numbering systems were significantly different from the modern variation. Until the 1920s, when the NFL limited its rosters to 22 players, it was rare to see player numbers much higher than 25 (Red Grange was a notable exception, wearing 77 with the Chicago Bears while playing halfback, which would not be allowed under current NFL rules), and numbers had little correlation with positions (in 1929, the Orange Tornadoes subverted the system even further, experimenting with using letters instead of numbers.[1])

The numbering system used today originated in football's past when all teams employed some variation of the single wing formation on offense. When teams switched to the T-formation in the 1930s and 1940s, the numbers were taken with them to whatever position evolved from the old single wing position. This numbering system originated in college football and was used only informally in the NFL until 1952; the backs were numbered 1–4 and the line 5–8. Tailbacks, left halfbacks or flankers (1-back), like Frank Gifford, were given 10s. The blocking back (2-back), which evolved into the quarterback in the T formation, had a number in the 20s (e.g. Bobby Layne and John Hadl, and Doug Flutie during his college career). Fullbacks (or 3-backs) were given numbers in the 30s, and right halfbacks, what would become simply the halfback or running back (4-backs) in the 40s, centers in the 50s, guards in the 60s, tackles in the 70s, and ends in the 80s. Earlier, defensive players wore numbers that reflected their offensive position, as many players played both offense and defense. For example, quarterbacks and halfbacks usually played in the defensive back field and so had numbers in the 10s, 20s, and 40s. Fullbacks were linebackers and had numbers in the 30s; centers and guards were linebackers as well and has numbers in the 50s and 60s respectively. Guards and tackles played the defensive guard and tackle positions and had numbers in the 60s and 70s respectively. Ends had numbers in the 80s. Split ends (e.g. Emlen Tunnell) would be cornerbacks and tight ends (e.g. Fred Dryer, Buck Buchanan) would be defensive ends but all would have numbers in the 80s. The league allowed Johnny Olszewski to wear the number zero (0) during his career.

The CFL had a different numbering system with the ends in the 70s, making wide receivers up until recent times having 70s numbers (CFL Receivers may still wear numbers in the 70s, but as most receivers are from the U.S., they will usually wear 80s if they choose to wear a higher number; CFL receivers may also wear numbers from 1–19). Likewise, centers were usually assigned numbers in the 40s; in modern times, the CFL has required offensive linemen to wear numbers between 50 and 69.

The AAFC had a different numbering system with quarterback in the 60s (Otto Graham), fullbacks in the 70s (Marion Motley), halfbacks in the 80s, ends in the 50s (Mac Speedie), tackles in the 40s (Lou Groza), guards in the 30s, and centers in the 20s. When the AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950, the AAFC players kept their old uniform numbers which caused confusion and resulted in the NFL going to a standard numbering system in 1952. This resulted in many star players having to change their numbers in mid-career. Examples are Otto Graham going from 60 to 14, Norm Van Brocklin going from 25 to 11, and Tom Fears going from 55 to 80.

The American Football League of the 1960s mostly used the same numbering system as the NFL did, with some exceptions, mostly pertaining to wide receivers, who were allowed to wear numbers in the teens and 20s (as the AFL had a greater priority toward offense, the league often made use of flankers, receivers positioned in the backfield). The AFL's numbering system also allowed for the use of a double-zero as a number, which was used by two AFL players: Jim Otto, center for the Oakland Raiders; and Ken Burrough, wide receiver for the Houston Oilers, both wore 00.

1973 standardisation

The NFL imposed a more rigid numbering system in 1973. When it went into effect, players who played in the league before then were given a grandfather clause to continue wearing newly prohibited numbers (i.e. Otto and Burrough were allowed to keep their 00 jerseys, many wide receivers wore jersey numbers in the teens and 20s before the rule changes required receivers to wear numbers in the 80s, and many defensive linemen and linebackers wore numbers in the 80s). New England Patriots defensive end Julius Adams was the last player to be covered by the clause, wearing number 85 through the 1985 season, but he had to wear number 69 when he briefly came out of retirement in 1987 during the 1987 strike. This was in stark contrast to when the league required linemen to wear jersey numbers in the 50–79 range in 1952 (for ineligible receiver purposes), since Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham wore number 60 prior to this change. Graham switched to number 14, which was retired by the Browns while his more familiar number 60 remains in circulation today, most recently worn by guard Ryan Miller in 2012.

Post-1973 changes

Since 1973, only three major changes have been made. In 1984 , the NFL allowed defensive linemen and linebackers to wear jersey numbers in the 90–99 range, since more teams were making use of the 3–4 defense and thus were quickly exhausting numbers for linebackers, who previously were only allowed to wear numbers in the 50–59 range. (Before this change, the NFL had outlawed the 90–99 range for regular season use, since it was rarely issued before 1973, but did permit it for the preseason; Lawrence Taylor wore his college number 98 during his rookie training camp with the Giants in 1981 before switching to his more familiar 56 before the start of the season.) Another change occurred in 2004, when the NFL allowed wide receivers to wear numbers 10–19 in addition to the 80–89 range; this was due to several NFL teams retiring 80-range numbers, as well as teams employing more receivers and tight ends in their offense. Since 2010, defensive linemen are allowed to wear numbers 50-59; this is in part because of the interchangeability of linebackers and defensive ends (a defensive end in a 4-3 defense would be an outside linebacker in a 3-4). In 2015, the NFL Competition Committee approved linebackers using numbers from 40 to 49.[2]

Current system

The NFL's current numbering system is as follows:[3]

Number Range QB RB WR TE / H OL DL LB DB K P
1-9 Yes Preseason[lower-alpha 1][4] Preseason[lower-alpha 2] No No No No Preseason[lower-alpha 3] Yes Yes
10–19 Yes No Yes No No No No No Yes Yes
20–29 No Yes No No No No No Yes No No
30–39 No Yes No No No No No Yes No No
40–49 No Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes No No
50–59 No No No No Yes[lower-alpha 4] Yes Yes No No No
60–69 No No No No Yes Yes No No No No
70–79 No No No No Yes Yes No No No No
80–89 No No Yes Yes No No No No No No
90–99 No No No No No Yes Yes No No No

It should be noted that this NFL numbering system is based on a player's primary position. Also, if a player changes primary positions during his career, he does not usually have to change his number unless he changes from an eligible receiver to ineligible or vice versa (Jason Peters is a notable example, having moved from tight end, where he wore number 86, to offensive tackle, where he currently wears 71). Any player wearing any number may play at almost any position on the field at any time, if the player reports to the official; players wearing numbers 50–79 must let the referee know that they are playing out of position by reporting as an "ineligible number in an eligible position," and likewise, those wearing any other number can report as an "eligible number in an ineligible position" (there are restrictions on the latter case as of the 2015 season, and eligible numbered players may never in any case line up in a formation position that is ineligible but appears to be eligible, such as a split tackle in a slot position). It is not uncommon for running backs to line up at wide receiver on certain plays, or to have a large lineman play at fullback or tight end in short yardage situations, or to have wide receivers fill in as extra defensive backs. Also, in preseason games, when teams have expanded rosters, players may wear numbers that are outside of the above rules. When the final 53-player roster is established, they are reissued numbers within the above guidelines.

Long snappers, not listed in the league's numbering system, most often wear a number in the 40s but can wear any number from 40-99. (The position of "long snapper" is not considered a primary position, and long snappers are typically listed as centers, who can wear 50–79, or tight ends, who can wear in the 40s or 80s.)


Players have often asked or challenged the NFL for an exception to the numbering system rule. In 2006, New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush requested to keep the number 5 he wore in college. His request was declined, and he was assigned number 25 by the team.[5] Former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth wore number 44 in college for the University of Oklahoma and wore that number during the 1987 preseason with the Seahawks. He took the NFL to court for the right to wear #44, but he lost and had to switch to #55.

Many exceptions to the rules have been granted. The most notable case may be former wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who was allowed to wear number 19 despite available numbers in the 80s (though he had to pay "fines" for the privilege). This, combined with the fact that more NFL teams were retiring 80s numbers, led to the league to allow wide receivers to wear numbers 10–19 in addition to 80s numbers in 2004.

Former New York Giants linebacker Brad Van Pelt was allowed to wear number 10 with the team despite not being covered in the grandfather clause, as the team drafted him in 1973, the year the newer jersey number system went into effect. This was because Van Pelt served as the team's backup kicker his rookie season.[6] Van Pelt did wear number 91 at the end of his career for the Los Angeles Raiders and Cleveland Browns.

Another Giants player, defensive lineman Phil Tabor, also skirted the numbering requirements by wearing number 80 during his four-year stint (1979–82) with the club.

Another former wide receiver, Dwight Stone, was allowed to wear number 20 when he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, with whom he spent the majority of his career. Stone did wear 80s numbers after he left the Steelers. Another former Steeler, tight end Matt Cushing, wore number 48, but he was listed as a "tight end/fullback", since he was also the team's backup fullback. Former Steeler and current Charger David Johnson wears number 88 as a fullback (85 in Pittsburgh) because he is listed as a tight end.

In his brief tenure with the New England Patriots, quarterback-to-receiver convert Isaiah Stanback initially wore No. 9, before switching to 15.

A number of current players wear numbers outside the range for their primary position. Former Chicago Bears wide receiver/return specialist Devin Hester wore number 23, which represented the position the team originally drafted him for, cornerback. Hester was allowed to keep 23 after the team converted him to wide receiver. Hester would later switch to 17 when he signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2014, since number 23 was already taken by Robert Alford.[7]

New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich wears number 50, which represents the position the team originally signed him for, linebacker. He switched to defensive end as the Patriots were switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense in 2011. In 2010, the league began to allow defensive linemen to wear numbers in the 50s.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Aaron Kampman wore number 74, which represented the position for which he was drafted, defensive end (or defensive tackle). Kampman moved to linebacker when his former team, the Green Bay Packers, switched from 43 defense to a 34 defense under the new defensive coordinator before the 2009 season (see Packers switch from 4–3 to 3–4 defense). Kampman's predicament was similar to that of A. J. Duhe of the Miami Dolphins, who wore number 77 when he entered the league in 1977 as a defensive end. Duhe did not change numbers when he moved to inside linebacker in 1979 when Dolphins defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger made the permanent switch to the 3–4 (the Dolphins used the 3–4 as its "53" package from 1971–78).

Former defensive end Chris Doleman was permitted to keep his number 56 after being moved from linebacker to defensive end, while former linebacker Simon Fletcher made the opposite move, defensive end to linebacker, and was permitted to keep his number 73. Fletcher's teammate with the Denver Broncos, Karl Mecklenburg, wore number 77 despite playing inside linebacker throughout his career. Mecklenburg was originally listed as a defensive end and thus was issued #77; he was allowed to keep it when he moved to linebacker.

A.J. Duhe was drafted as a defensive tackle by the Miami Dolphins in 1977 and was issued #77. He kept the number when he moved to inside linebacker in 1980 and wore it the rest of his career, which ended following the 1984 season.

Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mike Furrey, wearing number 87, and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss, wearing number 84, played safety and/or cornerback in some defensive packages. In 2004 and 2011, the New England Patriots occasionally used wide receivers Troy Brown and Julian Edelman at nickel cornerback; both kept their jersey numbers (80 and 11, respectively) when playing defense. Ex-Baltimore Ravens tight end Edgar Jones wore number 84, but sometimes played defensive end or outside linebacker, his original position when he signed with Baltimore in 2007.

Former Seattle Seahawks player Jameson Konz wore number 43, but was listed as a defensive end on the team's roster. However, Konz played tight end in 2013 pre-season games, and was often used on defense at linebacker and defensive end, on offense as a tight end, and on special teams.

Before the NFL allowed linebackers to wear numbers in the 40s, former Green Bay Packers linebacker Robert Francois wore number 49 because all the numbers in the 50s and 90s were taken when he signed with the team. For the same reason, former New England Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain wore No. 48 during his first stint with the team; he later wore No. 95. Julian Stanford of the Detroit Lions is another No. 49, but he wore the number before the rule was changed prior to the 2015 season.

As a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Demarcus Dobbs was originally a tight end; after switching positions to defensive end, he kept his uniform number 83. When he was claimed on waivers by the Seattle Seahawks, he was given a traditional number for a defensive lineman, number 95.

After the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted quarterback/wide receiver Denard Robinson in the 2013 draft, the team converted him to running back and initially assigned him the jersey number 29. However, they later listed him on their roster as an "offensive weapon," allowing him to wear his collegiate No. 16; he has since officially been listed as a running back, but still wears 16. Similarly, De'Anthony Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dri Archer of the Pittsburgh Steelers, both college running backs who have retained that position in the pros, are listed by their teams as WR/RB and are able to wear a number in the teens (both wear 13).

Mark Barron was drafted as a strong safety and continued to play that position after his trade to the St. Louis Rams, but after being converted to outside linebacker he kept his number 26. Deone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals made a similar switch to inside linebacker, and also still wears a defensive back's number (20).


Retired numbers

Most NFL teams have retired some numbers in honor of the team's best players. Generally when a number is retired, future players for the team may not wear it. However, exceptions have been made when a player with a retired number allows an active player to wear his number. However, very rarely does the new player accept the offer. When the Kansas City Chiefs acquired Joe Montana in 1993, Hall of Famer Len Dawson gave Montana permission to wear his old #16, Montana's number in San Francisco, but Montana declined it and wore 19 instead, which was both his old number in high school and the sum of his numbers at Notre Dame (3) and the 49ers (16).

One exception offer that was accepted was made in 2004, when Steve Largent, whose #80 was retired by the Seattle Seahawks, allowed Jerry Rice to wear #80 when he briefly played for the team. Rice, a star who mostly played with the 49ers and Raiders, had also worn #80 throughout his career. Rice made the same gesture when the 49ers signed longtime St. Louis Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce in 2008. Rice offered Bruce the number, since Bruce had worn 80 during his 14-year stay with the Rams. (Though the number was not officially retired until 2010, the 49ers had not issued #80 since Rice left the team in 2001.) However, both Bruce and the 49ers agreed on not wearing 80 as a 49er, and wore number 88 during his two-year stint with the 49ers before retiring.

Another accepted offer was made in 2012, when Peyton Manning, who had worn #18 with the Indianapolis Colts for 13 seasons, signed with the Denver Broncos. Denver had previously retired #18 for Frank Tripucka, who offered the jersey number to the five-time MVP.

The 49ers made another exception for quarterback Trent Dilfer to wear number 12, which had been retired in honor of John Brodie. Dilfer, a close friend of Brodie, wore the number in tribute to him and to garner attention for Brodie's potential election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Similarly, Detroit Lions linebacker Joe Schmidt allowed Pat Swilling to wear his retired number 56 when Swilling was acquired in 1993.[8]

The Chicago Bears have retired the most numbers (14), followed by the San Francisco 49ers (12). Some newer teams have yet to retire any.

The New Orleans Saints have retired the numbers 31 and 81 in honor of Jim Taylor and Doug Atkins, who played on the first Saints franchise in 1967. Strangely enough, neither Taylor nor Atkins has had their uniform numbers retired by the teams for which they played the vast majority of their careers before coming to the expansion Saints, Taylor with the Green Bay Packers and Atkins with the Bears. (Current cornerback Davon House, in fact currently wears 31 for the Packers.) Taylor played only one year with the Saints before retiring, while Atkins' last three seasons were in New Orleans.

The numbers 7, 12, 40, and 70 have each been retired by five teams, more than any other numbers.

One of the most notable retired numbers is number 12 for the Seattle Seahawks, who retired the number in 1984 in honor of the "12th man", or the Seahawks fans, as opposed to a particular player. Since then, the team sells number 12 jerseys with the word "Fan" where the player's last name would be.

The Indianapolis Colts have chosen to retain the retired status of numbers retired when the club was in Baltimore, a point which irritated former Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas. Incensed at the way former owner Robert Irsay moved the Colts out of town late at night on March 29, 1984, Unitas severed all ties to the Colts franchise and insisted he only be listed as a member of the "Baltimore Colts". Unitas was soon joined by teammates Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti, all of whom also had their numbers retired by the club in Baltimore. (Many of these players would later support the Baltimore Ravens.) The Colts recently retired number 18 for quarterback Peyton Manning although he continues to play in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, the club however has not retired any further numbers of former Baltimore Colts.

The Dallas Cowboys have not retired any numbers despite a long list of Hall Of Fame players. Instead, the Cowboys do not issue the number, as is the case with number 12 for Roger Staubach and number 8 for Troy Aikman, or the number is used as a sign of legacy; an equivalent to the number retirement ceremony, the "Ring of Honor" ceremony where the player's name and number is permanently displayed on the ring of AT&T Stadium's fourth balcony fascia, is utilized instead to honor those players, which other teams also have emulated, sometimes with the addition of a number retirement. The number 22 was used by Hall Of Fame players Bob Hayes and Emmitt Smith. The number 88 is used as a lineage for the top WR brought in by the team. It was first made famous by Drew Pearson in the 1970s, before Michael Irvin used it in the 1990s. The number now belongs to Dez Bryant. Number 94 was worn by Charles Haley and later all-time team sack leader DeMarcus Ware, and currently belongs to Randy Gregory.

For many years, the Buffalo Bills never officially retired uniform numbers. This changed when Jim Kelly's number 12 was officially retired by the Bills in 2001; owner Ralph Wilson preferred not to formally retire numbers, but to take them out of circulation without a ceremony. (Kelly's jersey retirement came during the five-year period when he relinquished his duties as President to Tom Donahoe.) Bruce Smith, the all-time league leader in sacks, will have his jersey number 78 retired in 2016; he will be the first newly retired number since Terry Pegula took over the team in 2014. Smith's 78 was one of two other numbers that were unofficially retired during Wilson's lifetime. 34 was taken out of circulation in honor of Cookie Gilchrist and Thurman Thomas, two of the best running backs in the team's history. 32 was taken out in honor of O. J. Simpson, the team's first first overall draft pick and the first Bill to be inducted into the Hall of Fame; even after Simpson was accused of murder, Wilson insisted that 32 remain withdrawn.[9] Jack Kemp's number 15 went unissued for over 25 years until it was put back into circulation for Todd Collins in 1995; Elbert Dubenion's 44, Billy Shaw's 66 and Andre Reed's 83 have been issued only sparingly since those players retired.[10] Like Dallas, Buffalo has a "Wall of Fame" honoring some of their great players and contributors. One number that was unofficially retired for most of the team's history was 31, which was reserved as a generic number for promotions and to represent the "spirit of the franchise". This policy was reversed in 1990 when the number was awarded to James "J.D." Williams; it has since been re-released to all players (in part due to the withdrawal of 32) but is not, as of 2015, not in regular use.

Only Four players have worn the #14 jersey for the Cincinnati Bengals are, in order, Sam Wyche (QB), Ken Anderson (QB), Maurice Purify (WR), and Andy Dalton (QB). Wyche played from 1968 to 1970 and later coached the team to its second Super Bowl in 1988. Ken Anderson, for whom the number is known by Bengals fans, wore the number from 1973 until 1986. No player had worn it until Andy Dalton took the number upon being drafted in 2011, Ken Anderson gave his support to Dalton being issued with the number. Offensive Tackle Anthony Muñoz wore #78 for the Bengals, which has not been worn since he left Cincinnati. The only number to be retired by the Bengals is the number 54 worn by Bob Johnson, their first ever draft pick.

Although the Green Bay Packers have retired the numbers 3 (Tony Canadeo), 14 (Don Hutson), 15 (Bart Starr), 66 (Ray Nitschke), 92 (Reggie White), and 4 (Brett Favre)they are reluctant to officially retire numbers due to the high number of Hall of Famers who've played for the team. Even White's number 92 was simply taken out of circulation after his retirement and wasn't officially retired until after his death in 2004.

Other Green Bay players whose numbers are "unofficially" retired and kept out of circulation include Paul Hornung's number 5 (issued only once, for one year, since his retirement), and team founder Curly Lambeau, whose number 1 has not been re-issued since he last wore it in 1925 and 1926 (the first two years the team wore jersey numbers).

Because of the Packers reluctance to retire numbers, a few numbers have been worn by more than one all-time Packer great and would likely have to be retired for multiple men. Number 30, for example, was worn by Clarke Hinkle and Ahman Green, both of whom retired as the Packers all-time leading rusher. Similarly, number 80 has been worn by James Lofton and Donald Driver, who both left Green Bay as the Packers all-time leading receiver. Green Bay has also assigned numbers to rookie players based on the number of the player that they are ostensibly replacing on the team. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was issued number 21 last worn by Charles Woodson. Davon House was issued number 31 last worn by Al Harris. Morgan Burnett wears number 42 last worn by Darren Sharper

The New England Patriots have retired seven jersey numbers: 20 (Gino Cappelletti), 40 (Mike Haynes), 57 (Steve Nelson), 73 (John Hannah), 78 (Bruce Armstrong), 79 (Jim Lee Hunt), and 89 (Bob Dee). Although they have not officially retired Andre Tippett's No. 56, they have not issued it since Tippett's retirement in 1993.

Non-retirement policies

While the NFL does allow teams to retire jersey numbers, the league officially discourages retiring numbers, for fear of teams running out of numbers. As a result, a few NFL teams do not retire jersey numbers.


The Oakland Raiders, along with the Houston Texans (who have not accumulated enough of a history to warrant retiring numbers as of 2014), are the only teams in the NFL that have not retired any numbers, officially or unofficially. Only Hall of Fame center Jim Otto's number, 00, has not been reissued by the Raiders, and in Otto's case only because the league forced the Raiders to stop issuing the number; the NFL banned the numbers 0 and 00 in 1973 under the new numbering system. As a result of the Raiders' policy, the numbers worn by Hall of Fame inductees have been used by other players who followed, including Willie Brown's number 24 (currently worn by Charles Woodson), George Blanda's number 16 (worn by Andrew Walter), Kenny Stabler's number 12 (worn by Rich Gannon, Josh McCown, and Jacoby Ford), Fred Biletnikoff's number 25 (worn by D.J. Hayden), Ray Guy's number 8 (worn by Matt Schaub) and Gene Upshaw's number 63 (worn by Mark Wilson).

It has been speculated that number 2 was briefly withdrawn from circulation, not to honor a player, but out of stigma: JaMarcus Russell, the last player to wear it (he left the NFL in 2009), was a notorious draft bust.[11][12] Terrelle Pryor, who was originally assigned number 6, was eventually allowed to wear the number 2 beginning in 2013, thus putting the number back in circulation.


Like Oakland, Dallas' official policy is to not retire uniform numbers, although there are a few numbers that have been unofficially retired and have not been used since the retirement of prominent players wearing them. Emmitt Smith and former Olympic athlete Bob Hayes wore number 22 with the Cowboys, but the number has not been reissued since Smith left for Arizona in 2004. Perhaps most notably, Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin both wore number 88 with the Cowboys, and it is currently worn by Dez Bryant. The Cowboys will be treating number 88 similar to that of number 12 with the Alabama Crimson Tide and, until 2005, number 44 for the Syracuse Orange (who have since retired number 44) by reserving number 88 for only the best receivers.[13] Instead of retiring numbers, the Cowboys induct prominent players into a Ring of Honor, which rings Cowboys Stadium, and originally ringed their previous home, Texas Stadium. Since their induction into the Ring of Honor, numbers 8 (Troy Aikman), 12 (Roger Staubach), 22 (Hayes and Smith), and 74 (Bob Lilly) have not been reissued or are rarely used.


The Pittsburgh Steelers also do not officially retire uniform numbers (the exception being Ernie Stautner, who played before the dynasty years of the 1970s). However, Terry Bradshaw's number 12, Franco Harris' number 32, Jerome Bettis' number 36, Mike Webster's number 52, Jack Lambert's number 58, Dermontti Dawson's number 63, and Joe Greene's number 75 have not been issued since those respective players retired, while Gary Anderson's number 1, Donnie Shell's number 31, Mel Blount's number 47, and Jack Ham's number 59 have had minimal usage since. Number 35 was worn by two Hall of Famers (Bill Dudley and John Henry Johnson) and was most recently worn by former fullback Dan Kreider in 2007. The Steelers officially retired Greene's number 75 on November 2, 2014, during a halftime ceremony of the Ravens/Steelers game at Heinz Field.[14]

John Stallworth's number 82 has been reissued several times as has Lynn Swann's number 88; this is mainly because of the limited number of numbers available for wide receivers and tight ends (until 2004, those positions could only wear numbers in the 80s). However, the NFL has since relaxed the rule and started allowing receivers to wear jersey numbers 10–19 in addition to 80s numbers.


The Washington Redskins have only retired one number, Sammy Baugh's number 33. Numbers 7 (Joe Theismann), 9 (Sonny Jurgensen), 28 (Darrell Green), 42 (Charley Taylor), 43 (Larry Brown), 44 (John Riggins), 49 (Bobby Mitchell), 51 (Monte Coleman), 65 (Dave Butz), 70 (Sam Huff), and 81 (Art Monk) are considered unofficially retired. It is generally assumed that 21 (Sean Taylor) is also considered unofficially retired, which is supported by the fact that Oshiomogho Atogwe switched to 20 upon joining the Redskins despite always wearing 21 with the St. Louis Rams previously.

Numbers 0 and 00

Numbers 0 and 00 are no longer used, though they were issued in the NFL before the number standardization in 1973. Running back Johnny Olszewski, nicknamed "Johnny O," wore a single-0 jersey for much of his time in the NFL. Author George Plimpton famously wore 0 during a brief preseason stint at quarterback for the Detroit Lions. Jim Otto wore number "00" during most of his career with the Oakland Raiders as a play on his name, "aught-oh." Wide receiver Ken Burrough of the Houston Oilers also wore "00" during his NFL career in the 1970s. More recently, linebacker Bryan Cox wore 0 in the 2001 preseason with New England; for the regular season, he switched to 51. Numbers from 01 to 09, with a leading "0" digit, would theoretically be allowed (and be considered the same as numbers 1 to 9 for record-keeping purposes), but such a number has never been issued in professional football.


  1. Running backs are permitted to wear these numbers during the preseason play only. For example, Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans wore number 2 in the preseason but changed to number 22 before the start of the regular season.
  2. Receivers are permitted to wear these numbers during the preseason when there are no numbers in the 10s or 80s available. For example, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants wore number 3 in the 2010 preseason but changed to 80 before the start of the regular season.
  3. Defensive backs are permitted to wear these numbers during the preseason when there are no numbers from 20-49 available. For example, Tarell Brown of the New England Patriots wore number 9 in the 2015 preseason before switching to 31 after Justin Green's retirement. (He would wear 25 for the regular season.)
  4. Only centers are permitted to wear these numbers, but there have been exceptions. For instance, guard Brian Waters wore No. 54 for all but one season of his career.


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