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Tom Brady: Why the NFL shouldn’t allow players to wear almost any number

The Bucs quarterback says he is playing chess and the rule is messing up the board.
“It’s a game of chess,” Tom Brady recently told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s not figure it out as you go.”
“It’s a game of chess,” Tom Brady recently told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s not figure it out as you go.” [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 7
Updated Sep. 7

TAMPA ― Tom Brady loves the cerebral side of football, staying one move ahead of his opponent.

“It’s a game of chess,” he recently told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s not figure it out as you go.”

That’s why he has such a problem with the NFL’s new jersey numbers rule for 2021. Proposed by the Chiefs, it allows running backs, tight ends and receivers to wear any number from 1 to 49, as well as 80-89. Likewise, defensive backs will be permitted to wear numbers 1-49 while linebackers can wear jerseys between 1-59 and 90-99.

What irritates Brady is NFL owners passed the rule without understanding the nuance of the game.

“I have a lot of perspective things,” Brady said. “You know, like there are certain things that frustrate me and I say, ‘Well, this is something I should speak up about.’ Things as it relates to pro football, the unions. And I’ve been around for 20 years to watch and I say, ‘Is it getting better or worse?’ And when I feel like it’s getting worse, I go, ‘What are we doing? This is not the purpose of the game.’

“But there are people who are making decisions who don’t have the same perspective. Not that mine is always right, but at least I want to feel like my point is heard, too. Because some of it is made just for the sake of making it.”

Quarterbacks use the jersey numbers of opposing defensive players to identity the middle linebacker and set protections. Receivers and tight ends study film to diagnose the rotation of the secondary.

“The number rule is crazy,” Brady said. “Literally, guys changed their numbers today. I’m playing two guys who had different numbers in the preseason. So, yeah you’ve got to watch film and know who you’re studying but so do running backs. They’ve got to know who to block. So does the offensive line. So does the receivers who are adjusting their routes based on blitzes.

“So one guys has got a 6, one guy has 11, one guy has got a 9. And they change every play when you break your routes and get to your spot. It’s going to be a very challenging thing. It’s a good advantage for the defense, which that’s what it is.

“It would be like saying, ‘What if I let the offensive linemen wear 82 and No. 9?’ Brady continued. “They wouldn’t know who was eligible. Well that’s not fair. You’ll get your tail kicked. At least identify who the D-line, the linebackers and the safeties are. You’re going to have a lot of matchups where guys are blocking the wrong guys. I don’t know why that should be.”

Cowboys linebacker Jaydon Smith, who wore No. 54, is now No. 9. Linebacker Micah Parsons will wear No. 11. Cornerback Trevon Diggs was No. 27 and now is No. 7.

“There’s a reason why you do every single thing in football,” Brady said. “And you study hard so you can put yourself in a good position. Now you get to the game, and you’re going to be confused the whole time because you’re rotating what a D-lineman used to look like versus a linebacker or here is what a safety looks like. Very pointless.”