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New NFL rules could entice 49ers to change jersey numbers

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Fred Warner

When Fred Warner came to the 49ers in 2018 as a third-round draft pick, his college jersey number was not even an option due to NFL rules.

As a rookie with the 49ers, he settled for No. 48.

A year later, he changed to No. 54, after it became available with the departure of Cassius Marsh.

Now, a lot more number options are available to NFL players after a rule change that passed on Wednesday.

Linebackers and defensive backs now are allowed to wear any number from 1 to 49. Running backs, fullbacks, tight ends and wide receivers can wear 1 to 49 and 80 to 89.

Offensive linemen must still wear 50 to 79, and defensive linemen can wear those numbers, as well as 90 to 99. Linebackers can also wear 90 to 99.

Quarterbacks, punters and kickers are still required to wear numbers 1 through 19.

Warner is a player on the 49ers who is eligible to switch to his college number, if he were so inclined. But after an All-Pro season, he might not want to keep things the same.

After switching after his rookie season, Warner explained why on 49ers Talk.

“Yeah, 54 was the number I thought about when I was entering the NFL because you can’t wear single-digits like I did back at BYU," Warner said. "I wore No. 4.

"So, 54 seemed fitting, but it was taken at the time. It opened up. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I’m going to continue the rest of my career with, so that’s why I made the change.”


He said he wore No. 4 at BYU as part of a custom that was established there.

“Single-digits in college is the cool thing to do, I guess,” Warner said. “At BYU, we had some good linebackers who started the tradition of wearing single-digit numbers. Kyle Van Noy was the best. He wore 3, and I followed up with 4 after my freshman year.”

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who wore No. 19 in his first two seasons with the 49ers, posted photos on social media of him wearing No. 1 at the Senior Bowl and while at South Carolina. He added text, "Jersey number changes coming ..."

Some of the other single-digit numbers players on the 49ers could be considering already are taken.

Cornerback Jason Verrett (Texas Christian) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (Florida Atlantic) wore No. 2 in college. Quarterback Josh Rosen, who will be in competition for a spot on the roster, has been assigned No. 2.

Verrett said last month after learning of the rule proposal, he briefly considered pursuing a number change.

“When I saw it, I thought about going back to those TCU days and rockin’ that No. 2,” Verrett said. “But speaking to my brother, he said I make 22 look good, so I think I’ll still stick with that even if that rule happens.”

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Receiver Richie James (Middle Tennessee State) and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (North Texas) both wore No. 3 in college. That number is currently available.

Safety Jaquiski Tartt (Samford) and running back JaMycal Hasty (Baylor) wore No. 6, but 49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky was issued that number after he was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.

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