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NFL rule changes for 2021; jersey number expansion


Six new playing rules and one bylaw were adopted today by NFL clubs.

The most visible change fans will see on game days is the expansion of jersey number options for certain positions to the following:

  • Quarterbacks, punters, and placekickers: 1–19
  • Defensive backs: 1–49
  • Running backs, full backs, tight ends, H-backs, and wide receivers: 1–49 and 80-89
  • Offensive linemen: 50–79
  • Defensive linemen: 50–79 and 90–99
  • Linebackers: 1–59 and 90–99

If a player changes his position during his playing career in the NFL, and such change moves him from a position as an ineligible pass receiver to that of an eligible pass receiver, or from a position as an eligible pass receiver to that of an ineligible pass receiver, he must be issued an appropriate new jersey numeral. A change in jersey numeral is not required if the change is from an ineligible position to another ineligible position, or from an eligible position to another eligible position, provided that the player has participated at least one season at his position prior to the change.

Any request to wear a numeral for a special position not specified above must be made to the Commissioner. During the preseason period when playing rosters are larger, the league will allow duplication and other temporary deviations from the numbering scheme specified above, but the rule must be adhered to for all players during the regular season and postseason. Clubs must make numerals available to adhere to the rule, even if it requires returning to circulation a numeral that has been retired or withheld for other reasons.

View jersey numbers for the newest members of the Giants. Note: jersey numbers are always subject to change.

Below is a full look at the changes, who proposed them, and the reason for the rule according to the league:

Approved 2021 Playing Rules Summary

By Competition Committee: to amend Rule 16, to eliminate overtime in the preseason.

Reason: Game presentation; Pace of play

By Competition Committee: to amend Rule 6, Section 1, Article 3, for one year only, to establish a maximum number of players in the setup zone.

Reason: Provides excitement and competition.

By Competition Committee, Coaches Subcommittee, and Baltimore: to amend Rule 15, Section 3, Article 9, and Rule 19, Section 2, to permit the Replay Official and designated members of the Officiating department to provide certain objective information to the on-field officials.

Reason: Competitive equity.

By Chicago: to amend Rule 11, Section 3, Article 3, to ensure the enforcement of all accepted penalties committed by either team during successive Try attempts.

Reason: Competitive equity.

By Los Angeles Rams: to amend Rule 8, Section 1, Article 2, to add a loss of down for a second forward pass from behind the line and for a pass thrown after the ball returns behind the line.

Reason: Competitive equity.

By Kansas City: to amend Rule 5, Section 1, Article 2, to expand jersey number options for certain positions.

Reason: Flexibility in assigning jersey numbers.

Approved 2021 Bylaws Summary

By Competition Committee: to amend Article XII, Section 12.4 of the Constitution and Bylaws to require clubs to submit tryouts and visits to the League office throughout the entire year; however, such transactions will only be reported to clubs from the start of training camp through the conclusion of the Super Bowl, unless it is with a Restricted or Unrestricted Free Agent.

Reason: Provides more comprehensive information and increased transparency


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