This article needs additional citations for verification . (May 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Players in the National Football League wear uniform numbers between 1 and 99, and no two players on a team may wear the same number on the field at the same time. Rules exist which tie a player's number to a specific range of numbers for their primary position. Additionally, rules exist which limit who may handle the ball on offense, generally players who are designated as offensive lineman, who wear numbers 50-79, are not allowed to handle the ball during a play from scrimmage, though they are allowed to do so if they report to the referee as playing out of position.
The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, and the highest professional level of American football in the world. The NFL's 17-week regular season runs from early September to late December, with each team playing 16 games and having one bye week. Following the conclusion of the regular season, six teams from each conference advance to the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament culminating in the Super Bowl, which is usually held in the first Sunday in February, and is played between the champions of the NFC and AFC.
Uniform numbers in American football are unusual compared to those in other sports. They are displayed in more locations on the uniform; they are universally worn on both the front and back of the jersey; and in many cases "TV numbers" are displayed on either the jersey sleeves, the shoulder pad, or occasionally on the helmets. The numbers on the front and back of the jersey also are very large, covering most of the jersey. More important, certain numbers may only be worn by players playing specific positions; thus, the jersey numbers assist the officials in determining possible rules infractions by players.
In American football each team has 11 players on the field at one time. The specific role that a player takes on the field is called their position. Under the modern rules of American football, teams are allowed unlimited substitutions; that is, teams may change any number of players after any play. This has resulted in the development of three "platoons" of players: the offense, the defense, and the special teams. Within those platoons, various specific positions exist depending on what each player's main job is.
This section needs additional citations for verification . (May 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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.)
Harold Edward "Red" Grange, nicknamed "The Galloping Ghost", was an American football halfback for the University of Illinois, the Chicago Bears, and for the short-lived New York Yankees. His signing with the Bears helped legitimize the National Football League (NFL). He is a charter member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) North division. The Bears have won nine NFL Championships, including one Super Bowl, and hold the NFL record for the most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the most retired jersey numbers. The Bears have also recorded more victories than any other NFL franchise.
A halfback (HB) is an offensive position in American football, whose duties involve lining up in the backfield and carrying the ball on most rushing plays, i.e. a running back. When the principal ball carrier lines up deep in the backfield, and especially when that player is placed behind another player, as in the I formation, that player is instead referred to as a tailback.
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 given numbers in the 10–49 range and the offensive line numbers in the 50–89 range. 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 10–49 range, defensive line numbers ranged from 50–89, while linebackers (who often played fullback or tight end on offense) could have just about any number. Split ends (precursors to modern wide receivers) had numbers in the 80s, and many would play corner back (i.e. Night Train Lane, who wore 81 as a cornerback).[ citation needed ]
Richard Lane, commonly known as Dick "Night Train" Lane, was an American football player. A native of Austin, Texas, he played professional football in the National Football League (NFL) for 14 years as a defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams (1952–1953), Chicago Cardinals (1954–1959), and Detroit Lions (1960–1965).
The AAFC of the 1940s, which would later merge with the NFL, 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.[ citation needed ]
The All-America Football Conference (AAFC) was a professional American football league that challenged the established National Football League (NFL) from 1946 to 1949. One of the NFL's most formidable challengers, the AAFC attracted many of the nation's best players, and introduced many lasting innovations to the game. However, the AAFC was ultimately unable to sustain itself in competition with the NFL. After its folding, three of its teams were admitted to the NFL: the San Francisco 49ers, the Cleveland Browns and the original Baltimore Colts.
Otto Everett Graham Jr. was an American football quarterback who played for the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL). Graham is regarded by critics as one of the most dominant players of his era, having taken the Browns to league championship games every year between 1946 and 1955, winning seven of them. With Graham at quarterback, the Browns posted a record of 114 wins, 20 losses, and four ties, including a 9–3 win–loss record in the playoffs. While most of Graham's statistical records have been surpassed in the modern era, he still holds the NFL record for career average yards gained per pass attempt, with 8.98. He also holds the record for the highest career winning percentage for an NFL starting quarterback, at 0.826. Long-time New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a friend of Graham's, once called him "as great of a quarterback as there ever was."
Marion Motley was an American football fullback and linebacker who played for the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL). He was a leading pass-blocker and rusher in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and ended his career with an average of 5.7 yards per carry, a record for a fullback that still stands. A versatile player who possessed both quickness and size, Motley was a force on both offense and defense. Fellow Hall of Fame running back Joe Perry once called Motley "the greatest all-around football player there ever was".
The American Football League of the 1960s, which would also later merge with the NFL, 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 future Hall of Famer Jim Otto, center for the Oakland Raiders; after wearing the number 50 in his rookie season, switched to 00 which he wore for the remainder of his career.[ citation needed ]
The American Football League (AFL) was a major professional American football league that operated for ten seasons from 1960 until 1969, when it merged with the older National Football League (NFL), and became the American Football Conference. The upstart AFL operated in direct competition with the more established NFL throughout its existence. It was more successful than earlier rivals to the NFL with the same name, the 1926, 1936 and 1940 leagues, and the later All-America Football Conference.
James Edwin Otto is a former professional American football center for the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL).
The Oakland Raiders are a professional American football franchise based in Oakland, California. The Raiders compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) West division. Founded on January 30, 1960, they played their first regular season game on September 11, 1960, as a charter member of the American Football League (AFL) which merged with the NFL in 1970.
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. 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. The 1973 system is still in place today, though some changes have been made periodically as team rosters have grown and as greater flexibility has been needed to deal with changing roster demands.[ citation needed ]
A grandfather clause is a provision in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases. Those exempt from the new rule are said to have grandfather rights or acquired rights, or to have been grandfathered in. Frequently, the exemption is limited; it may extend for a set time, or it may be lost under certain circumstances. For example, a "grandfathered power plant" might be exempt from new, more restrictive pollution laws, but the exception may be revoked and the new rules would apply if the plant were expanded. Often, such a provision is used as a compromise or out of practicality, to allow new rules to be enacted without upsetting a well-established logistical or political situation. This extends the idea of a rule not being retroactively applied.
The New England Patriots are a professional American football team based in the Greater Boston area. The Patriots compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) East division. The team plays its home games at Gillette Stadium in the town of Foxborough, Massachusetts, which is located 21 miles (34 km) southwest of downtown Boston, Massachusetts and 20 miles (32 km) northeast of downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The Patriots are also headquartered at Gillette Stadium.
Defensive end (DE) is a defensive position in the sport of American and Canadian football.
Since 1973, only five major changes have been made. In 1979, the NFL allowed defensive linemen to wear numbers 90 to 99 and centers 60-79.[ citation needed ] In 1984, the NFL allowed 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.[ citation needed ] 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.[ citation needed ] 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.
The NFL's current numbering system is as follows:
|Number Range||QB||RB||WR||TE / H||OL||DL||LB||DB||K / P||LS|
The numbers used relate to the player's primary position when they are first assigned a number. If they later change positions, they can keep their prior number, unless it conflicts with the eligible receiver rule; that is only players that change positions from an eligible position (such as receiver or back) to an ineligible position (such as an offensive lineman) are required to change numbers if they change position. Additionally, during a game a player may play out-of-position, but only after reporting in to the referees, who will announce to the stadium that a specific player number has reported in (for example "Number 61 has reported as an eligible receiver") to alert the opposing team, other officials, and the audience that a player is legally out-of-position. A 2015 rule clarification made it illegal to use unusual formations (such as a tackle split wide in the slot position, but still "covered" by a wide receiver) to obscure who is and is not eligible based on uniform numbers in order to avoid having to report ineligible numbers.
Some positions are not listed in the rule book, such as long snapper and special teams gunner. Teams often assign these players to a recognized position (such as long snappers being listed as tight ends or special teams gunners as wide receivers) even if those players rarely, if ever, play in their official position. The rule book also allows players to appeal for exemptions to the numbering rules directly to the commissioner's office, which may grant such exceptions on occasion.
Many 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. The NFL officially discourages (but does not prevent) teams from retiring numbers, as the limited number of uniform numbers available for each position can be depleted. Some teams will hold official "number retirement" ceremonies, others have "informally" retired numbers by simply not issuing them. For teams that do not retire uniform numbers, they often honor players in other ways, such as team halls of fame or the like.
Numbers 0 and 00 are no longer used, though they were issued in the NFL before the number standardization in 1973. Quarterback Johnny Clement, running back Johnny Olszewski and safety Obert Logan all wore a single-0 jersey 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 the New England Patriots; 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.
In American football and Canadian football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass. Only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch a forward pass, and only an eligible receiver may advance beyond the neutral zone if a forward pass crosses into the neutral zone. If the pass is received by a non-eligible receiver, it is "illegal touching". If an ineligible receiver is beyond the neutral zone when a forward pass crossing the neutral zone is thrown, a foul of "ineligible receiver downfield" is called. Each league has slightly different rules regarding who is considered an eligible receiver.
A quarterback, colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in American and Canadian football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive team and line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offensive team, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is the offensive player that almost always throws forward passes.
A running back (RB) is an American and Canadian football position, a member of the offensive backfield. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback for a rushing play, to catch passes from out of the backfield, and to block. There are usually one or two running backs on the field for a given play, depending on the offensive formation. A running back may be a halfback, a wingback or a fullback. A running back will sometimes be called a "feature back" if he is the team's starting running back.
In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the team currently in possession of the ball are the offensive line, while linemen on the opposing team are the defensive line. A number of NFL rules specifically address restrictions and requirements for the offensive line, whose job is to help protect the quarterback from getting sacked for a loss, or worse, fumbling. The defensive line is covered by the same rules that apply to all defensive players. Linemen are usually the largest players on the field in both height and weight, since their positions usually require less running and more strength than skill positions.
The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and formerly Canadian football, on the offense. The tight end is often seen as a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide receiver. Like offensive linemen, they are usually lined up on the offensive line and are large enough to be effective blockers. On the other hand, unlike offensive linemen, they are eligible receivers adept enough to warrant a defense's attention when running pass patterns.
Strategy forms a major part of the game of American football, and both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent to score more points in order to win the game.
Game play in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is dead or not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts, or field goal attempts – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.
The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation, an eight men in the box defense, with six players along the line of scrimmage. There are two players at linebacker depth playing linebacker technique, and then three defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized with the Chicago Bears by their defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
A formation in football refers to the position players line up in before the start of a down. There are both offensive and defensive formations and there are many formations in both categories. Sometimes, formations are referred to as packages.
In sports, a starting lineup is an official list of the set of players who will participate in the event when the game begins. The players in the starting lineup are commonly referred to as starters, whereas the others are substitutes or bench players.
In American football, blocking or interference involves legal movements in which one player obstructs another player's path with their body. The purpose of blocking is to prevent defensive players from tackling the ball carrier, or to protect a quarterback who is attempting to pass or hand off the ball. Offensive linemen and fullbacks tend to do the most blocking, although wide receivers are often asked to help block on running plays and halfbacks may be asked to help block on passing plays, while tight ends perform pass blocking and run blocking if they are not running routes to receive passes. Overall, blocking is a skill that virtually every football player may be required to do at some point, even defensive players in the event of a turnover.
In football, the tackle-eligible play is a forward-pass play in which coaches will attempt to create mismatches against a defense by inserting an offensive tackle, into an offensive formation as an eligible receiver, usually as a tight end or as a fullback. This is done by changing the formation of the offensive line, via positioning two linemen on one side of the center and three linemen on the other.
In team sports, the number, often referred to as the uniform number, squad number, jersey number, shirt number, sweater number, or similar is the number worn on a player's uniform, to identify and distinguish each player from others wearing the same or similar uniforms. The number is typically displayed on the rear of the jersey, often accompanied by the surname. Sometimes it is also displayed on the front and/or sleeves, or on the player's shorts or headgear. It is used to identify the player to officials, other players, official scorers, and spectators; in some sports, it is also indicative of the player's position.
The flexbone formation is an offensive formation in American football that uses a quarterback, five offensive linemen, three running backs, and varying numbers of tight ends and wide receivers. The flexbone formation is a predominant running formation derived from the wishbone formation and it features a quarterback under center with a fullback lined up directly behind the quarterback. There are two smaller running backs called slotbacks aligned behind the line of scrimmage on each side of the offensive line. The slotbacks are sometimes incorrectly referred to as wingbacks. But in order to be a wingback, there must be a guard, tackle and tight end all on one side of the center on the line of scrimmage and then the wingback off the line of scrimmage.
The New England Patriots generally run a modified Erhardt-Perkins offensive system and a Fairbanks-Bullough 3–4 defensive system, though they have also used a 4–3 defense and increased their use of the nickel defense.
The A-11 offense is an offensive scheme that has been used in some levels of amateur American football. In this offense, a loophole in the rules governing kicking formations is used to disguise which offensive players would be eligible to receive a pass for any given play. It was designed by Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries of Piedmont High School in California.
The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.