After two years on the sidelines, Marshawn Lynch's jersey number will be back on the field for the Seahawks this season, if not Lynch himself.
As part of their pre-draft press conference on Monday, the Seahawks also unveiled an updated roster with jersey numbers for their new players, as well as a few new numbers for some returning players.
One in particular quickly raised some eyebrows — second-year cornerback Mike Tyson switching from number 40 to 24.
The number 24, of course, was worn by Marshawn Lynch during his Seattle career from 2010-15 and has not been worn since, with receiver Doug Baldwin once taking to Twitter to request to team management that “Nobody wears #24 for years to come” as signed by the team’s “players.”
Baldwin sent that tweet following the 2016 draft.
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Turns out, years to come was two.
Some fans may have thought the team would shelve Lynch’s number indefinitely, if not forever, potentially priming it to someday be one of the team’s retired jerseys that hang from the rafters of CenturyLink Field.
But it’s worth remembering the team’s policy on retiring numbers.
The Seahawks have retired four numbers for players — the four players who played their entire careers with the team and ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Those four are Steve Largent (80), Cortez Kennedy (96), Walter Jones (71) and Kenny Easley (45).
The numbers for Largent, Kennedy and Easley were all retired in the year they were elected to the Hall (though Largent’s made a brief return for fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 2004, something Largent has said he since regrets). None of the four were intentionally handed out again after their Seahawks careers were over (apparently Easley’s was worn briefly once in what was a quickly-amended mistake).
The team made an exception for Jones, retiring his number in 2010 almost immediately upon his retirement from the NFL, safe in the knowledge he’d get into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
While Largent was originally drafted by the Oilers he did not play in a regular season game for Houston, traded to Seattle before the beginning of the 1976 season. Same with Easley, who was traded to Arizona in 1988 but never became a Cardinal when he failed a physical and the trade terms amended.
Seattle has also retired the number 12 in honor of the fans, which it did in 1984.
But otherwise, the team’s policy has been to only retire the numbers of players who spent their entire careers with the Seahawks and were voted to the Hall.
Seattle’s policy for the Ring of Honor is obviously different, with nine players having been inducted, including five who played for multiple teams — quarterbacks Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg, running back Curt Warner, defensive end Jacob Green and defensive back Dave Brown.
So if you want to take all that as a sign that Lynch likely won’t get his number retired — barring a change in policy — but could get into the Ring of Honor someday, go right ahead.
And assuming the Seahawks stick with that policy, you can also quickly narrow the possibilities for jersey retirements down the road (Richard Sherman probably a no-go at this point).
NFL teams, of course, also run into some logistical issues when it comes to retiring numbers since league rules require that players can only wear certain numbers based on their position (QBs, punters and kickers have to wear numbers 1-19, etc. — here are the full rules). With 90 players on a training camp roster, divvying up all the numbers can be tricky enough even with a full complement.
It’s thought that the Seahawks wanted to give Lynch’s number a little distance before handing it out. But with Lynch back in the NFL with Oakland and also having played for Buffalo and not fitting the criteria for a retired jersey, the team now regarded it as fair to give to another player.
Tyson was a sixth-round pick of Seattle a year ago and wore number 40 when he made it to the 53-man roster late in the season. He wore number 5 during his college career at Cincinnati, according to the team’s website.
Tyson was one of a few current Seahawks to shift to different numbers. Running back Mike Davis, who wore 39 last year, is now wearing number 27 (which last year belonged to Eddie Lacy). And running back J.D. McKissic, who wore 21 last year, is now wearing 20, which last season belonged to Jeremy Lane. The number 21 also belonged to cornerback DeAndre Elliott, who was on Injured Reserve last season but is now back on the roster and again wearing 21.
As for new players, here are their jersey numbers:
7 — Quarterback Stephen Morris.
18 — Receiver Jaron Brown.
11 — Kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
35 —Safety Maurice Alexander.
39 — Cornerback Dontae Johnson.
51 — Linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
78 — Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker.
84 — Tight end Ed Dickson.
91 — Defensive tackle Tom Johnson.
98 — Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen.