Ex-Patriots Exec Sheds Light On Team’s Rookie-Jersey Number Method


Few teams find more ways to gain a competitive edge than the New England Patriots.

The Patriots introduced a new avenue last preseason when rookies donned nontraditional jersey numbers. Running back Sony Michel, for example, rocked No. 51, while undrafted cornerback J.C. Jackson sported No. 65. It wasn’t until a few weeks into the preseason when New England’s first-year players were given permanent jerseys numbers that actually followed the league mandate.

New England will operate under the same guidelines this summer. Yes, it’s going to look weird seeing (temporarily) No. 50 N’Keal Harry catch passes when training camp kicks off Thursday. The strategy might seem like it’s more bizarre than it is effective, but it can go a long way in helping ingratiate New England’s youngest and newest players into the group.

“It’s all about communication. The No. 1 thing in football is communication,” former Patriots executive Michael Lombardi told ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “How do you improve communication? Everyone talks to one another. When you don’t know the number of the guy playing next to you, or you don’t understand it, you’re forced to talk. You’re forced to know who he is.”

We don’t think anyone in Foxboro over the next few weeks will need any help identifying the player wearing No. 12, who’s set to embark on his 20th (!) NFL season.

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