The National Football League (NFL) is the largest professional American football league. It is an unincorporated 501(c)(6) association controlled by its members. It was formed by eleven teams in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (the league changed the name to American Professional Football League in 1921 and then settled on its current name in 1922). The league currently consists of thirty-two teams from American cities and regions, divided evenly into two conferences — the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC) — of four four-team divisions.
The regular season is a seventeen-week schedule during which each team has one bye week and plays sixteen games. This schedule includes six games against a team's divisional rivals, as well as several inter-division and inter-conference games. The season currently starts on the Thursday night in the first full week of September (the Thursday after Labor Day) and runs weekly to late December or early January.
At the end of each regular season, six teams from each conference play in the NFL playoffs, a twelve-team single-elimination tournament that culminates with the championship game, known as the Super Bowl. This game is held at a pre-selected site which is usually a city that hosts an NFL team. The following week, selected all-star players from both the AFC and NFC meet in the Pro Bowl, held in Honolulu, Hawaii.
While baseball is known as America's "national pastime," football is the most popular sport in the United States. According to the Harris Poll, professional football moved ahead of baseball as the fans' favorite in 1965 and has remained America's favorite sport ever since. In a Harris sports poll done in 2008, the NFL was the favorite sport of nearly as many people (30 percent) as the combined total of the next four professional sports – baseball (fifteen percent), auto racing (ten percent), hockey (five percent) and men’s pro basketball (four percent), Additionally, Football's American TV viewership ratings now surpass those of other sports.
The NFL has the highest per-game attendance of any domestic professional sports league in the world, drawing over 67,000 spectators per game for each of its two most recently completed seasons, 2006 and 2007. However, the NFL's overall attendance is only approximately 20% of that of Major League Baseball, due to MLB's much longer schedule (about 162+ games).
|Green Bay Packers||12|
|New York Giants||7|
|San Francisco 49ers||5|
|New England Patriots||3|
|St. Louis Rams||3|
|Kansas City Chiefs||3|
|San Diego Chargers||1|
|New York Jets||1|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1|
The American Professional Football Association was founded in 1920 at a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio. The eleven founding teams initially struck an agreement over player poaching and the declaration of an end-of-season champion. Legendary athlete Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs was elected president. Only four of the founding teams finished the 1920 schedule and the undefeated Akron Pros claimed the first championship. Membership of the league increased to 22 teams in 1921, but throughout the 1920s the membership was unstable and the league was not a major national sport.
Two charter members, the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) and the Decatur Staleys (now the Chicago Bears), are still in existence. The Green Bay Packers franchise (founded in 1919) is the oldest team not to change locations, but did not begin league play until 1921. The Indianapolis Colts franchise traces its history through several predecessors, including one of the league's founding teams (the Dayton Triangles), but is considered a separate franchise from those teams and was founded as the Baltimore Colts in 1953.
Early championships were awarded to the team with the best won-lost record, initially rather haphazardly, as some teams played more or fewer games than others, or scheduled games against non-league, amateur or collegiate teams. It was not until 1933 that an annual championship game was instituted. By 1934, all of the small-town teams, with the exception of the Green Bay Packers, had moved to or been replaced by teams in big cities. An annual draft of college players was first held in 1936. It was during this era, however, that the NFL became segregated: there were no Black players in American professional football between 1933 and 1945. One prominent franchise, George Preston Marshall's Washington Redskins, remained all-white until forced to integrate by the Kennedy administration in 1962.
College football was the bigger attraction, but by the end of World War II, pro football began to rival the college game for fans' attention. Rule changes and innovations such as the T formation led to a faster-paced, higher-scoring game. The league also expanded out of its eastern and midwestern cradle; in 1945, the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles, becoming the first big-league sports franchise on the West Coast (not counting the various teams in ice hockey's PCHA, which was a rival to the NHL in the 1910s and 1920s). In 1950, the NFL accepted three teams from the defunct All-America Football Conference, expanding to thirteen clubs. In the 1950s, with the league broadcast on national television, pro football finally earned its place as a major sport.
A number of innovations distinguished the AFL and helped it maintain its legitimate rivalry to the NFL. A stadium game clock for the spectators (the NFL relied only on time announcements from the officials on the field), players' names on their jerseys, and a playing style geared to the attractive and flashy passing game. The AFL was inclusive of black players and actively recruited from colleges with black players historically shunned by the NFL. AFL teams further installed blacks at positions from which they were tacitly excluded in the NFL, such as quarterback and middle linebacker. In January 1965 there was a player boycott of the 1964 AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans, over discrimination of black players by some of the hotels and businesses in the city. This was a seminal civil-rights action and is commemorated at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The AFL also forced the NFL to expand: The Dallas Cowboys were created to counter Hunt's AFL Dallas Texans franchise. The Texans moved the franchise to Kansas City as the Chiefs in 1963; the Minnesota Vikings were the NFL franchise given to Max Winter for abandoning the AFL; and the Atlanta Falcons franchise went to Rankin Smith to dissuade him from purchasing the AFL's Miami Dolphins.
In an agreement brokered by AFL founder Lamar Hunt and Dallas Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm, the two leagues announced their merger deal on 8 June 1966. The leagues would henceforth hold a combined draft and an end-of-season title game between the two league champions (later known as the Super Bowl). Still another city received an NFL franchise thanks to the AFL, as New Orleans was awarded an NFL team after Louisiana's federal Congressmen pushed for the passage of Public Law 89-800, which permitted the merger and exempted the action from Anti-Trust restrictions. The monopoly that would be created needed to be legitimized by an act of Congress. In 1970, the leagues fully merged under the name National Football League and divided into two conferences of an equal number of teams. There was also a financial settlement, with the AFL paying $18 million over 20 years.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the NFL solidified its dominance as America's top spectator sport and its important role in American culture. The Super Bowl became an unofficial national holiday and the top-rated TV program most years. Monday Night Football, which first aired in 1970, brought in high ratings by mixing sports and entertainment. Rule changes in the late 1970s ensured a fast-paced game with lots of passing to attract the casual fan.
The founding of the United States Football League in the early 1980s was the biggest challenge to the NFL in the post-merger era. The USFL was a well-financed competitor with big-name players and a national television contract. However, the USFL failed to make money and folded after three years. The USFL filed a successful anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL, but the remedies were minimal, and mismanagement (most notably, a planned move of its niche spring football season to a head-to-head competition in the fall) led to the league's collapse. However, like the AFL before it, the success of the USFL led directly to new NFL teams in Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Phoenix as well as the return of the Los Angeles Raiders to their original home city of Oakland.
In recent years, the NFL has expanded into new markets and ventures. In 1986, the league began holding a series of pre-season exhibition games, called American Bowls, held at international sites outside the United States. Then in 1991, the league formed the World League of American Football, later known as NFL Europe and still later as NFL Europa, a developmental league that had teams in Germany and the Netherlands when the NFL shut it down in June 2007. 2001 saw the rise of the XFL, an attempt by Vince McMahon and NBC, which had lost the NFL broadcast rights for that year, to compete with the league; the XFL folded after just one season. In 2003, the NFL launched its own cable-television channel, NFL Network.
The league played a regular-season NFL game in Mexico City in 2005. On October 28, 2007, a regular season game between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants was held outside of North America in Wembley Stadium, a 90,000-seat stadium in London. It was a financial success with nearly 40,000 tickets sold within 90 minutes of the start of sales, and a game-day attendance of over 80,000. On October 26, 2008 the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers will mark the NFL's return to Wembley Stadium. Starting from the 2008-09 season , the Buffalo Bills will play an annual home game in Toronto's Rogers Centre. On August 31, 2007, a story in USA Today unveiled the first changes to the league's shield logo since 1970, which took effect with the 2008 season. The redesign reduced the number of stars in the logo from 25 (which were found not to have a meaning beyond decorative) to eight (for each of the league's divisions), the logo's football repositioned in the manner of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and the NFL letters in a straight serifed font (which resembles the current typeface used in other NFL logos). The redesign was created with television and digital media, along with clothing, in mind. The shield logo dates to the 1940s.
Franchise moves became far more controversial in the late 20th century when a vastly more popular NFL, free from financial instability, allowed many franchises to abandon long-held strongholds for perceived financially greener pastures. While owners invariably cited financial difficulties as the primary factor in such moves, many fans bitterly disputed these contentions, especially in Cleveland (the Rams and the Browns), Baltimore (the Colts), Houston (the Oilers) and St. Louis (the Cardinals), each of which eventually received teams some years after their original franchises left (the Browns, Ravens, Texans and the Rams respectively). However, Los Angeles, the second-largest media market in the United States, has not had an NFL team since 1994 after both the Raiders and the Rams relocated elsewhere.
Additionally, with the increasing suburbanization of the U.S., the building of new stadiums and other team facilities in the suburbs instead of the central city became popular from the 1970s on, though at the turn of the millennium a reverse shift back to the central city became somewhat evident, as with the move by the Detroit Lions from the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan to Ford Field in downtown Detroit and, similarly, the Chicago Bears decision to remain in a rebuilt Soldier Field.
Traditionally, American High school football games are played on Friday, American College football games are played on Saturday, and most NFL games are played on Sunday. Because the NFL season is longer than the college football season, the NFL schedules Saturday games and Saturday playoff games outside the college football Saturdays. The ABC Television network added Monday Night Football in 1970. Thursday night NFL games were added in the 1980s.
The games are useful for new players who are not used to playing in front of very large crowds. Management often uses the games to evaluate newly-signed players. Veteran starters will generally play only for about a quarter of each game to minimize the risk of injury.
Following the preseason, each of the 32 teams embark on a 17 week, 16 game schedule, with the extra week consisting of a bye to allow teams a rest sometime in the middle of the season. Each of the 32 teams' schedules are organized in the following way:
The season concludes with a 12-team tournament used to determine the teams to play in the Super Bowl. The tournament brackets are made up of six teams from each of the league's two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC), following the end of the 16-game regular season:
The 3 and the 6 seeded teams, and the 4 and the 5 seeds, face each other during the first round of the playoffs, dubbed the Wild Card Playoffs (the league in recent years has also used the term Wild Card Weekend). The 1 and the 2 seeds from each conference receive a bye in the first round, which entitles these teams to automatically advance to the second round, the Divisional Playoff games, to face the winning teams from the first round. In any given playoff round, the highest surviving seed always plays the lowest surviving seed. And in any given playoff game, whoever has the higher seed gets the home field advantage (i.e. the game is held at the higher seed's home field).
The two surviving teams from the Divisional Playoff games meet in Conference Championship games, with the winners of those contests going on to face one another in the Super Bowl in a game located at a neutral venue that is either indoors or in a warm-weather locale. The designated "home team" alternates year to year between the conferences. In Super Bowl XLII the AFC team (New England Patriots) were "home". In Super Bowl XLIII the NFC team will be the home team.
Most major metropolitan areas in the United States have an NFL franchise. Los Angeles, the second-largest metropolitan area in the country, has not hosted an NFL team since 1994. The Rams and the Raiders called Los Angeles home from 1946-1994 and 1982-1994 respectively. In 2005, some Saints games were played in San Antonio because of Hurricane Katrina. Also, there is talk of possibly bringing the NFL to Toronto, Ontario, the largest city of Canada. The most frequently mentioned team for such a move is the Buffalo Bills, who play south in Buffalo and will begin playing some of their games in Toronto's Rogers Centre in 2008.
The Dallas Cowboys are the highest valued American football franchise in the world, valued at approximately $1.5 billion and one of the most valuable franchises in all of professional sports, currently second only to English Soccer club Manchester United, which has an approximate value of US$1.8 billion at current exchange rates.
Since the 2002 season, the teams have been aligned as follows:
|American Football Conference|
|Division||Team||Location||Stadium||Head Coach||Founded||Joined NFL|
|East||Buffalo Bills|| Orchard Park, NY||Ralph Wilson Stadium1||Dick Jauron||1959||1970|
|Miami Dolphins||Miami Gardens, FL||Dolphin Stadium||Tony Sparano||1966||1970|
|New England Patriots||Foxborough, MA||Gillette Stadium||Bill Belichick||1959||1970|
|New York Jets||East Rutherford, NJ||Giants Stadium2||Eric Mangini||1960||1970|
|North||Baltimore Ravens||Baltimore, MD||M&T Bank Stadium||John Harbaugh||1996|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Cincinnati, OH||Paul Brown Stadium||Marvin Lewis||1968||1970|
|Cleveland Browns||Cleveland, OH||Cleveland Browns Stadium||Romeo Crennel||1946||1950|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Pittsburgh, PA||Heinz Field||Mike Tomlin||1933|
|South||Houston Texans||Houston, TX||Reliant Stadium||Gary Kubiak||2002|
|Indianapolis Colts*||Indianapolis, IN||Lucas Oil Stadium||Tony Dungy||1953|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Jacksonville, FL||Jacksonville Municipal Stadium||Jack Del Rio||1995|
|Tennessee Titans*||Nashville, TN||LP Field||Jeff Fisher||1960||1970|
|West||Denver Broncos||Denver, CO||INVESCO Field at Mile High||Mike Shanahan||1960||1970|
|Kansas City Chiefs*||Kansas City, MO||Arrowhead Stadium3||Herm Edwards||1960||1970|
|Oakland Raiders*||Oakland, CA||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum||Tom Cable||1960||1970|
|San Diego Chargers*||San Diego, CA||Qualcomm Stadium||Norv Turner||1960||1970|
|National Football Conference|
|Division||Team||Location||Stadium||Head Coach||Founded||Joined NFL|
|East||Dallas Cowboys||Irving, TX||Texas Stadium4||Wade Phillips||1960|
|New York Giants||East Rutherford, NJ||Giants Stadium2||Tom Coughlin||1925|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Philadelphia, PA||Lincoln Financial Field||Andy Reid||1933|
|Washington Redskins*||Landover, MD||FedExField||Jim Zorn||1932|
|North||Chicago Bears*||Chicago, IL||Soldier Field||Lovie Smith||1919||1920|
|Detroit Lions*||Detroit, MI||Ford Field||Rod Marinelli||1929||1930|
|Green Bay Packers||Green Bay, WI||Lambeau Field||Mike McCarthy||1919||1921|
|Minnesota Vikings||Minneapolis, MN||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome5||Brad Childress||1961|
|South||Atlanta Falcons||Atlanta, GA||Georgia Dome||Mike Smith||1966|
|Carolina Panthers||Charlotte, NC||Bank of America Stadium||John Fox||1995|
|New Orleans Saints||New Orleans, LA||Louisiana Superdome||Sean Payton||1967|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Tampa, FL||Raymond James Stadium||Jon Gruden||1976|
|West||Arizona Cardinals*||Glendale, AZ||University of Phoenix Stadium||Ken Whisenhunt||1898||1920|
|St. Louis Rams*||St. Louis, MO||Edward Jones Dome||Jim Haslett||1936|
|San Francisco 49ers||San Francisco, CA||Candlestick Park||Mike Nolan||1946||1950|
|Seattle Seahawks||Seattle, WA||Qwest Field||Mike Holmgren||1976|
The last team with no connections to the current Indianapolis Colts franchise to fold was the Cincinnati Reds in 1934; they folded midseason and were replaced by the independent St. Louis Gunners for the rest of the season.
Annually, the Super Bowl often ranks among the most watched shows of the year. Four of Nielsen Media Research's top ten programs are Super Bowls. Networks have purchased a share of the broadcasting rights to the NFL as a means of raising the entire network's profile.
Under the current television contracts, which began during the 2006 season, regular season games are broadcast on five networks: CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, and the NFL Network. Regionally shown games are broadcast on Sundays on CBS and FOX, carrying the AFC and NFC teams respectively (the traveling team deciding the broadcast station in the event of inter-Conference games, presumably so that each network can show games from all the stadiums). These games generally air at 1:00 p.m. ET and 4:00 p.m. or 4:15 p.m. ET. Nationally televised games include Sunday night games (shown on NBC), Monday night games (shown on ESPN), the Thursday night NFL Kickoff Game (shown on NBC), the annual Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day games (CBS and Fox), and, as of 2006, select Thursday and Saturday games on the NFL Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Football League.
Additionally, satellite broadcast company DirecTV offers NFL Sunday Ticket, a subscription based package, that allows most Sunday daytime regional games to be watched. This package is exclusive to DirecTV in the USA. In Canada, NFL Sunday Ticket is available on a per-provider distribution deal on both cable and satellite.
The NFL also has a contract with Sirius Satellite Radio, which provides news, analysis, commentary and game coverage for all games, as well as comprehensive coverage of the draft and off-season on its own channel, Sirius NFL Radio.
Internet radio broadcasts of all NFL games are managed through FieldPass, a subscription service. Radio stations are, by rule, prohibited from streaming the games for free from their Web sites; however, there are numerous stations that break this rule. The NFL on Westwood One and the NFL on Sports USA Radio are not available on FieldPass.
Brian Rolapp, senior vice president of NFL digital media and media strategy: “In a rapidly changing digital landscape, bringing NFL.com in-house provides us greater control of our valuable content and enables us to strategically build the site as a media asset. Fans can look forward to an even more entertaining, interactive and informative site built upon the expertise of the NFL and its other in-house media outlets such as NFL Network and NFL Films.”
Univision Online, Inc., the interactive subsidiary of Univision Communications Inc., and the NFL announced in January 2008 that they will jointly manage and operate NFLatino.com powered by Univision.com, the official U.S. Spanish-language website of the NFL. NFLatino.com is the only Spanish-language website in the United States to feature NFL video game highlights. In addition, the website includes live radio broadcasts, up-to-date stats, Hispanic player diaries, Fantasy Football and an insider’s view of all 32 teams.
Announced in March 2008, NFL.com received its first-ever Sports Emmy nominations, which earned recognition for its NFL.com LIVE coverage of NFL Network’s Thursday and Saturday Night Football (Outstanding new approaches, coverage) and its Anatomy of a Play, a short-form 360-degree analysis of key plays of the week (Outstanding new approaches, general interest).
Beginning September 2008, the NFL announced that it would simulcast all NBC Sunday Night Football games on NFL.com, located at nfl.com/snf. In 2007, they had provided an Emmy-nominated "complementary live broadcast" which included a partial simulcast of the NFL Network's Run to the Playoffs eight game package along with expanded NFL Network analysis.
Players are tiered into three different levels with regards to their rights to negotiate for contracts:
Among the items covered in the CBA are:
|Years Experience||Minimum Salary|
A player's salary, as defined by the CBA, includes any "compensation in money, property, investments, loans or anything else of value to which an NFL player may be awarded" excluding such benefits as insurance and pension. A salary can include an annual pay and a one-time "signing bonus" which is paid in full when the player signs his contract. For the purposes of the salary cap (see below), the signing bonus is prorated over the life of the contract rather than to the year in which the signing bonus is paid.
Player contracts are not guaranteed; teams are only required to pay on the contract as long as the player remains a member of the team. If the player is cut, or quits, for any reason, the balance of the contract is voided and the player receives no further compensation.
Among other things, the CBA establishes a minimum salary for its players, which is stepped-up as a player's years of experience increase. Players and their agents may negotiate with clubs for higher salaries, and frequently do. As of the 2005 NFL season, the highest paid player was Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, whose "cap value" was slightly under $8 million. The overall value of his contract is 10 years at $130 million, averaging $13 million a year, including signing bonuses and annual salary. The NFLPA maintains a searchable record of base compensation for active players here
The NFL salary cap is calculated by the current CBA to be 59.5% of the total projected league revenue for the upcoming year. This number, divided by the number of teams, determines an individual team's maximum salary cap. For 2008, this was approximately $116 million per team. For 2009, a minimum 6% increase raised this number to at least $123 million.
Teams and players often find creative ways to fit salaries under the salary cap. Early in the salary cap era, "signing bonuses" were used to give players a large chunk of money up front, and thus not count in the salary for the bulk of the contract. This led to a rule whereby all signing bonus are pro-rated equally for each year of the contract. Thus if a player receives a $10 million signing bonus for a 5 year contract, $2 million per year would count against the salary cap for the life of the contract, even though the full $10 million was paid up front during the first year of the contract.
Player contracts tend to be "back-loaded". This means that the contract is not divided equally among the time period it covers. Instead, the player earns progressively more and more each year. For instance, a player signing a 4-year deal worth $10 million may get paid $1 million the first year, $2 million the second year, $3 million the third year, and $4 million the fourth year. If a team cuts this player after the first year, the final three years do not count against the cap. Any signing bonus, however, ceases to be pro-rated, and the entire balance of the bonus counts against the cap in the upcoming season.
Teams are ranked in inverse order based on the previous season's record, with the team having the worst record picking first, and the second-worst picking second, and so on. Regardless of regular season records, the last two picks of each round go to the two teams in the Super Bowl immediately preceding the draft, with the Super Bowl champion picking last.
The draft proceeds for seven rounds. Rounds 1–2 are run on Saturday of draft weekend, rounds 3–7 are run on Sunday. Teams are given a limited amount of time to make their picks. If the pick is not made in the allotted time, subsequent teams in the draft may draft before them. This happened in 2003 to the Minnesota Vikings.
Teams have the option of trading away their picks to other teams for different picks, players, cash, or a combination thereof. While player-for-player trades are rare during the rest of the year (especially in comparison to the other major league sports), trades are far more common on draft day. In 1989, the Dallas Cowboys traded running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for five veteran players and six draft picks over 3 years. The Cowboys would use these picks to leverage trades for additional draft picks and veteran players. As a direct result of this trade, they would draft many of the stars who would help them win three Super Bowls in the 1990s, including Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland and Darren Woodson.
The first pick in the draft is often taken to be the best overall player in the rookie class. This may or may not be true, since teams often select players based more on the teams' needs than on the players' overall skills. Plus, comparing players at different positions is difficult to do. Still, it is considered a great honor to be a first-round pick, and a greater honor to be the first overall pick. The last pick in the draft is known as Mr. Irrelevant, and is the subject of a dinner in his honor in Newport Beach, California.
Drafted players may only negotiate with the team that drafted them (or to another team if their rights were traded away). The drafting team has one year to sign the player. If they do not do so, the player may reenter the draft and can be drafted by another team. Bo Jackson famously sat out a season in this way.
Free agency in the NFL began with a limited free agency system known as "Plan B Free Agency", which was in effect between the 1989 and 1992 seasons. Beginning with the 1993 season, "Plan A Free Agency" went into effect, which is the system which remains in the NFL today.
In comparison to the policies of Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, the NFL has long been the most strict. While recently MLB and the NHL decided to permanently ban athletes for a third offense, they have long been resistant to such measures, and random testing is in its infancy.
Since the NFL started random, year-round tests and suspending players for banned substances, many more players have been found to be in violation of the policy. By April 2005, 111 NFL players had tested positive for banned substances, and of those 111, the NFL suspended 54.
A new rule is in the works due to Shawne Merriman. Starting the 2007–2008 season, the new rule would prohibit any player testing positive for banned substances from being able to play in the Pro Bowl that year.
Prior to 2004, wide receivers were allowed to only wear numbers 80–89. The NFL changed the rule that year to allow wide receivers to wear numbers 10–19 to allow for the increased number of players at wide receiver and tight end coming into the league. Linebackers are allowed to wear numbers between 40–49 when all of 50–59 and 90–99 numbers are taken. Prior to that, players were only allowed to wear non-standard numbers if their team had run out of numbers within the prescribed number range. Keyshawn Johnson began wearing number 19 in 1996 because the New York Jets had run out of numbers in the 80s. Oakland Raider offensive center Jim Otto wore a 00 jersey during most of his career with the AFL team and kept the number after the leagues merged. Devin Hester is a wide receiver/return specalist for the Chicago Bears but wears number 23 because he was drafted as a cornerback but transferred to wide receiver after his rookie year.
Occasionally, players will petition the NFL to allow them to wear a number that is not in line with the numbering system. Brad Van Pelt, a linebacker who entered the NFL in 1973 with the New York Giants, wore number 10 during his 11 seasons with the club, despite not being covered by the grandfather clause. In 2006, New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush petitioned the NFL to let him keep the number 5 which he used at USC. His request was later denied. Former Seattle Seahawks standout Brian Bosworth attempted such a petition in 1987 (to wear his collegiate number of 44 at the linebacker position which he used at the University of Oklahoma), also without success. The Seahawks attempted to get around the rule by listing Bosworth as a safety, but after he wore number 44 for a game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the NFL ruled Bosworth would have to switch back to his original number, 55.
It should be noted that this NFL numbering system is based on a player's primary position. Any player wearing any number may play at any position on the field at any time (though offensive players wearing numbers 50–79 and wishing to play at end or back must let the referee know that they are playing out of position by reporting as an "ineligible number in an eligible position"). Normally, only players on offense with eligible numbers are permitted to touch the ball by taking a snap from center, receiving a hand-off or catching a pass. 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. 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.