Every Saturday throughout the offseason, one question from Twitter will be selected to further explore a relevant topic around the New England Patriots.
@MikeReiss are they gonna retire 51?— Tyler Primeau (@TJPrimeau) May 12, 2016
Tyler, the topic of retiring numbers is a good one to revisit after Thursday when the team took Jerod Mayo's No. 51 out of circulation for now, by switching rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts from 51 to 52. This doesn't mean the Patriots plan to retire Mayo's number, but it's a sign of respect to wait a bit longer before issuing it.
The following Patriots numbers are retired: 20 (Gino Cappelletti), 40 (Mike Haynes), 57 (Steve Nelson), 73 (John Hannah), 78 (Bruce Armstrong), 79 (Jim Lee Hunt) and 89 (Bob Dee).
In football, with a 53-man roster during the year (plus a 10-man practice squad) and a 90-man roster in the offseason, there are only so many numbers that can be retired before the supply runs out. To account for this, the Patriots have created a set-up in establishing their Hall of Fame in which an induction can serve as an equal to a retired number. And then in an ultra-rare case, such as quarterback Tom Brady, we would see a player's number retired.
Tedy Bruschi is one notable example in this type of situation. His 54 could easily be retired, but this is what he said in 2012 when asked about Dont'a Hightower wearing his number: "The No. 54 needs to be worn and it needs to be worn by a 'backer. The Patriots contacted me before they gave Dont'a Hightower No. 54. They didn't have to do that, but they did. I appreciated that. The No. 54 was great to me, and what I told them was that I wish Hightower a long career wearing it, and I hope it brings him the same great fortune it brought me."
I'd expect Mayo's No. 51 to be worn again at some point. It's just a bit early.