Back in the news: Should linebackers be allowed to wear numbers in the 40s

Brian Bosworth went to court as rookie linebacker for the Seahawks in 1987 in attempt to be allowed to wear No. 44. Now, the NFL Competition Committee will discuss whether linebackers can wear numbers in the 40s.

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It was 28 years ago that Brian Bosworth lost his legal battle with the NFL over the right to wear No. 44.

That was in 1987, Bosworth's rookie season with the Seahawks. The brash linebacker got a restraining order that would allow him to wear the same number he had at the University of Oklahoma. But the league eventually won out and Bosworth switched to No. 55 – put continued his protest by painting 44 and 44 Blues on his shoes for games.

Now, the league's Competition Committee has proposed allowing linebackers to wear jerseys with numbers in the 40s – after they have been restricted to numbers in the 50s and 90s for more than 40 years. The Committee cites "a shortage of available numbers for linebackers" in making the proposal.

Bosworth, who was acquired in the 1987 supplemental draft by the Seahawks, played only three seasons before injuries ended his career. But his college number was linked to his business ventures – 44-Boz Inc., which produced "44 Boz Blues" sunglasses and "44 Blues" jeans.

Bosworth wore No. 44 in three preseason games as a rookie, but was forced to switch to No. 55 for the much-hyped regular-season opener in Denver against the Broncos and quarterback John Elway. The one-game restraining order allowed Bosworth to switch back to No. 44 for the Week 2 home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Kingdome.

"It made me feel better," Bosworth said after that game. "I felt more confident out there. The number thing may not be a big deal to anybody else, but it's a big deal to me. I'm very superstitious about my number, the way I approach the game, the way I do things."

In the end, the league prevailed. But the Competition Committee will discuss whether linebackers should be allowed to wear numbers in the 40s – among other issues – at their meeting prior to next week's NFL owners meeting.

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