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Patrick Queen charged toward Saints quarterback Taysom Hill, diving at his opponent’s legs and forcing him to the ground for a loss of 12 yards. The Ravens linebacker stayed down for a moment, kneeling on the ground and flexing while a teammate came over and gave him a few taps on the helmet as the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium cheered.
The play didn’t just force a fourth down in an August preseason game; it also gave fans a glimpse of something the NFL had never seen before: a sack by a player wearing a les-grizzlys-catalans.orgngle-digit jersey number.
les-grizzlys-catalans.orgnce the league imposed a stricter system in 1973 (before sacks were official), only quarterbacks, kickers and punters could don les-grizzlys-catalans.orgngle-digit numbers. But, in April, the longstanding restrictions changed when NFL owners accepted a proposal from the Chiefs.
Players across the league, like Queen, quickly took advantage of the opportunity. Though, in order to do so, each one (unless they changed teams over the offseason) had to buy out the remaining inventory of unsold jerseys with their former number, which could be a hefty price in some cases.
By AP News
Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY Network (Shepard); Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports (Queen)
Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: switched from 87 to 3
Shepard has tried to honor his father, who died when he was 6 years old, throughout his football career. When he first entered the league as a second-round pick for the Giants in 2016, Shepard chose No. 87, one of the les-grizzlys-catalans.orgx numbers Derrick Shepard wore throughout his time in the NFL as a wide receiver for Washington, the Cowboys and the Saints from 1987 to ’91.
Though 87 carried a special meaning in that regard, three is the number Shepard really associates with his father.
That’s what his father wore at Oklahoma, where he went from walk-on to starting wide receiver for the 1985 national championship team. Three is the number that was on the helmet the Sooners sent Shepard following the fatal heart attack in ’99, telling the young boy he’d one day follow in the footsteps of his father (who also coached there for a brief period) and uncles. Three is the number he wore from that point forward, whenever he had the choice at least, from Pop Warner through his own playing days as a Sooner.
So, when he heard that the rule was changing back in April, Shepard wanted to make the switch right away.
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“It's something I've always wanted to do, and it feels good just to be able to honor him in that way—wearing the number three and having the Shepard on the back of my jersey,” he said. “And I'm sure that he would be proud of me as far as I’ve come so far.”
Budda Baker, S, Cardinals: switched from 32 to 3
As soon as the number rule change was announced, Baker knew he wanted to switch as well.
The option to be one of the first safeties wearing les-grizzlys-catalans.orgngle digits in the NFL was appealing in itself, but even more so was the chance to wear No. 3.