FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was a light moment at the end of the New England Patriots' organized team activity last Friday, when offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked if it was a challenge for him to identify players without numbers or names on their jerseys.
McDaniels said he knows all the players so the numbers and names wouldn't matter, but when told it wasn't so easy for reporters watching practice, he laughed.
“I'm sure it's not," he cracked.
This got us thinking about the Patriots' approach of not having players wear numbers at practice, and also having no identifiable names, which they've done since 2012.
The question: How unique is the Patriots' approach?
After reviewing the 30 other NFL teams that have held organized team activities to date (the Rams start this week), the answer was decisive. The Patriots stand alone in this numbers game.
So why do they do it?
McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia shared some thoughts on the topic:
“We're learning a lot of different names and faces right now. We want our teammates to learn who the other people in the huddle are. I think it's great for the quarterbacks to do that but also for the skill players, the different groups of linemen, the different centers. There are a lot of different people working with one another during the course of practice that really lends itself to us becoming a team. That's what we're really focused on."
“We're working on communication and talking, getting used to hearing each other's voices and understanding how people move. ...We'll force a lot of communication to be made during this camp and during these practices to hopefully make it easier when we get to the portion of the season when we can work on those padded fundamentals."
A spin around the NFL reveals there are a few different approaches.
Some teams just have numbers. Others have numbers and names on the back of jerseys. Some have numbers and the names taped across the front of the helmet. A few teams added in a wrinkle of stripping the team logo off the helmet (Falcons, Raiders, Saints, Texans).
Here's the breakdown by division:
Bills – numbers, names taped on helmets
Dolphins – numbers, names taped on helmets
Jets – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Patriots – no numbers or names
Bengals – numbers, no names
Browns – numbers, names taped on helmets
Ravens – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Steelers – numbers, no names
Colts – numbers, no names
Jaguars – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Texans – numbers, no names (except rookies taped on helmet), no logo
Titans – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Broncos – numbers, no names
Chargers – numbers, no names
Chiefs – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Raiders – numbers, no names (except rookies taped on helmet), no logo
Cowboys – numbers, no names (except rookies taped on helmet)
Eagles -- numbers, names on back of jerseys
Giants – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Redskins – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Bears – numbers, no names
Lions – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Packers – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Vikings – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Buccaneers – numbers, no names
Falcons – numbers, names on back of jerseys, no logo
Panthers – numbers, names on back of jerseys
Saints – numbers, names on helmets, no logo
Cardinals – numbers, no names
49ers – numbers, no names
Rams – OTAs begin this week
Seahawks – numbers, names on back of jerseys