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NFL to Allow Players to Wear Jersey Number Zero



Steelers No Zero Johnny Clement

PHOENIX — The NFL has approved a proposal allowing more freedom of jersey number choice for players, including to allow the wearing of the number zero for the first time in some time.

The league has been steadily more permissive in assigning jersey numbers, which were one strictly designated to each position group. 

The rule change, which was proposed by the Philadelphia Eagles, will allow quarterbacks, kickers, defensive backs, running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, wide receivers and linebackers to wear the uniform number zero. All of those position groups had previously been approved for numbers one through nine. The change will also allow kickers to wear numbers from 0-49 and from 90-99.

The numbers o and 00 were worn in the NFL before number standardization was formally encoded in 1973. Hall of Fame Jim Otto wore 00 with the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s. Players that wore non-standard numbers before 1973 were grandfathered in.

The change comes on the heels of the league’s 2021 loosening of jersey number restrictions, which first allowed single-digit numbers for running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, linebackers and defensive backs.

The Steelers have had only player utilize those changes, when outside linebacker Melvin Ingram wore No. 8 in 2021. Players with existing numbers on the team would have to buy out the league’s jersey stock if they wish to change their number, so it’s unlikely that there will be a sudden wave of players changing to zero, in Pittsburgh or otherwise.

The only Pittsburgh Steelers player to ever wear zero was Johnny Clement, who wore it from 1946-48 and was nicknamed Mr. Zero. He played in 25 games and threw 228 times, completing 86 for 1,630 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also ran 239 times for 991 yards and seven scores and also served as a kick and punt returner.

NFL Annual Meeting

Click for more of Alan Saunders’ coverage from the 2023 NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

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