The New England Patriots have finally assigned numbers to its rookies, releasing them from the uncertainty of wearing numbers 50-72 based on draft and signing order.
First-round selection N’Keal Harry was given number-8 for the preseason, one he’ll have to change before the start of the regular season in accordance with wide receiver number rules. We might not see him in the preseason opener as an injury could leave him sidelined.
Fellow receiver and punt returner Gunner Olszewski was also handed a single-digit – number-9 – the least issued jersey number is Patriots history worn by just three players.
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All other rookie numbers are par for their position as most will be featuring in the Week 1 preseason contest. Here are all the new numbers.
There’s some interesting choices out of the bunch, so let’s review.
Being Number-4 in Boston Is Big-Time
Bobby Orr. Joe Cronin. Isaiah Thomas. Adam Vinatieri.
The last players to wear number-four for each of the four major sports teams in Boston. That’s right, the Patriots haven’t reissued the number-4 jersey since Vinatieri left town after the 2005 season.
Now, it belongs to Jarrett Stidham. Stidham wore number-8 at Auburn, but the jersey was claimed by N’Keal Harry (he wore number-1). Of course, he has the chance to change it should he make the regular-season roster, but to be given number-4 must be a privilege for the rookie.
Before you get too excited, no Patriots quarterback has worn the number-4 jersey in team history – a number typically reserved for kickers and punters. But hey, if the rookie does well and makes the roster, he might decide to stick with the same number for the regular season.
That’s Winovich, Not Ninkovich
A pair of edge linebackers have worn the number-50 for New England over the last two decades, Mike Vrabel and Rob Ninkovich.
Although the number has been reissued to players like Nicholas Grigsby, Ramon Humber, and in training camp to top draft choices Isaiah Wynn and Harry, it has yet to find a more permanent suitor. Winovich is a similar player to what the Patriots found in Ninkovich and Vrabel, so it’s only fitting he gets to wear the same number.
At Michigan, Winovich wore the number-15 jersey. Fifteen, fifty, close enough. In camp, Winovich was assigned the number-52 shirt, so it’s a bit of a change for the rookie but nothing too significant.
Gunner or Gunnar?
The number-9 jersey hasn’t been worn for the New England Patriots since Isaiah Stanback in the 2009 preseason. You’ll have to go back to 1995 when punter Brian Wagner donned the shirt in a regular-season game.
But a decade later, undrafted rookie Gunner Olszewski will wear the jersey in the preseason. It’s an ironic choice for the appropriately-named athlete. He played his college football at Bemidji State, a spot in Minnesota known more for hockey.
Still don’t get it? How about we revisit D2: The Mighty Ducks. Iceland’s star player, Gunnar Stahl, wore the number-9 jersey. Perhaps some channeling of a sporting legend or perhaps just simple math. Olszewski wore number-36 in college, and three plus six makes nine.
Whatever the impetus, you’d like to think its to pay homage to a movie legend.
Is 42 Lucky or a Curse?
The last two players to wear the number-42 jersey in the preseason were Duke Dawson and Keionta Davis. Both were placed on IR coming out of camp, only to make the roster within a year of their injury.
Malik Gant and Nick Brossette are the two players assigned to the jersey this year. Can they break the curse, or is it really a blessing in disguise?