Ja’Whaun Bentley is taking advantage of the NFL’s newly relaxed uniform number policy.
The New England Patriots linebacker and co-captain announced Friday on social media he’s ditching the No. 51 he’s worn throughout his pro career and changing to No. 8.
With the league loosening its jersey number restrictions earlier this offseason, linebackers now are allowed to wear any number from 1 to 59 or 90 to 99. Previously, ‘backers were limited to digits in the 40s, 50s and 90s.
The new rules — which Patriots coach Bill Belichick reportedly “hates” — also expand the range of permitted numbers for offensive skill players (receivers, tight ends and running backs all can sport Nos. 1 through 49 and 80 through 90) and defensive backs (Nos. 1 through 49). Linemen, quarterbacks and specialists are subject to the same guidelines as previous years.
Bentley, who wore No. 4 in college at Purdue, is the first Patriots player to announce a number change since the new rules went into effect. Fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy last month confirmed he’s sticking with No. 53.