Saints rookie Reggie Bush inherits McAfee's jersey number
NEW ORLEANS -- Saints rookie running back Reggie Bush will wear jersey No. 25 this season, a number that veteran running back Fred McAfee has worn for eight of his nine seasons with the New Orleans team.
Bush will donate 25 percent of his jersey royalties to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and half of those funds will be distributed by McAfee to the charity of his choice, the team announced Thursday.
Under NFL rules, running backs are required to wear numbers between 20-49. Since 1973, the only major change was made last year, when receivers were given permission to wear numbers in the teens because teams were running out of 80s due in large part to an increase in receivers and tight ends on rosters.
Bush, chosen second overall by New Orleans in April's draft, wore No. 5 at Southern California and had asked the NFL to make an exception but it refused. Atlanta General Manager Rich McKay, co-chair of the NFL competition committee, said the committee also had requests from other players to wear numbers normally not allowed for their positions.
"To have worn the No. 5 was my first preference, but now the most important thing is to continue to raise awareness and proceeds for the victims of the hurricane," Bush said in a statement released by the team. "I've visited areas that have been affected and seen what they have gone through. Despite initially being disappointed, to wear 25 will help keep everyone aware of their struggles. And I thank Fred for making it available."
McAfee, who's entering his 15th season, has worn No. 25 since 2001 and has been one of the club's best special teams performers. He is slated to wear No. 32 this season.
"With this deal, many more people can benefit from the sale of the jersey," McAfee said. "This allows me many more options to help more people. I'm from Mississippi, which was also hit hard by the hurricane. And I consider New Orleans my home. I look forward to donating my part of the proceeds to charities. And I think Reggie should be commended for making that commitment."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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