It is more a formality for the fans and media; the ability to identify players on the fly using their uniform numbers. For some players, their number is nothing more than this, but for others it is seared into their identity. Imagine Peyton Manning wearing number 8 instead of 18. Bizarre. Remember when Joe Montana signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and how odd it looked for him to don number 19 instead of 16 (the fact that he was wearing red and yellow at all not withstanding)? Fortunately for Manning, the number 18 was brought out of retirement with the blessing of former Bronco Frank Tripucka so that Manning could keep the number that it tied to his Hall of Fame caliber career.
With the Denver Broncos‘ roster being trimmed to 53 on Friday, five players took advantage of vacant numbers:
Safety Jim Leonhard switched from 45 to his usual 36.
Rookie running back Ronnie Hillman switched from 34 to 21.
Safety Duke Ihenacho switched from 39 to 33.
Linebacker Steven Johnson switched from 41 to 53.
Offensive lineman C.J. Davis switched from 71 to 54.
Leonhard captured the number switch best on Twitter:
Update: I am no longer wearing one of the best fullback numbers ever. I will be wearing 36 for the Orange Crush this season.