The Chicago Bears have retired the most numbers of any team in the NFL, and second most in professional sports behind the New York Yankees. They’ve retired so many numbers, in fact, that in 1987 team president Michael McCaskey initially told Walter Payton that #34 would be worn again.
Because of what eventually turned into a shortage of uniform numbers, the Bears would for years at a time not use numbers worn by special players. For example, nobody wore #40 from Gale Sayers‘ retirement until the number was immortalized in 1994. Same for #50, this number has been reserved but not retired since Mike Singletary‘s last game played in 1992.
Now oddly, the Bears have announced that the legendary uniform number will be worn by new linebacker James Anderson in 2013. A player on a one-year contract. That’s what is strange about it. If they were going to eventually use the number again, why did they not assign it to Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs? Just seems odd to bring it out of mothballs for what could be a one-year player.
Apparently, Singletary is OK with it according to ChicagoBears.com via ProFootballTalk.com.
Maybe this is a veiled way for Phil Emery to continue to prove that there is a different era indeed dawning in Lake Forest. Or maybe that’s reading too much into an innocuous event. Or maybe since #7 (George Halas) was worn by Bob Avellini, #51 (Dick Butkus) was donned by Jim Morrissey and #89 (Mike Ditka) has been worn by a lot of average tight ends, it just doesn’t matter.
I wonder when #54 will be worn again? Surely if Singletary’s number can be worn by a one-year player, Urlacher’s legendary number will be used again.