Numbers game; Rams’ Long lands old No. 91

Rams DE Chris Long had his No. 91 jersey retired at both his Charlottesville, Va. high school and also during his senior season at the University of Virginia, so when the team’s previous holder of 91, Leonard Little, called it a career in December, Long asked his permission to trade in his 72 and Little obliged, according to Howard Balzer yesterday.

Little, who played his entire career with the Rams from 1998-2009, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he only officially retired once he saw how capable Long was in his old position with 112 tackles and 17.5 sacks in his three seasons. “I didn’t want to leave there and leave a hole to be filled,” Little said.

Lucky for Long, but not every number takeover has gone so smoothly:

Frugal Feagles

Giants P Jeff Feagles not only received an all expense family vacation to Florida from Eli Manning in exchange for his Old Miss No. 10, but he was also promised an outdoor kitchen from Plaxico Burress for his next pick, No. 17. Feagles favored it at the time because it was his 17th year in the league, and Burress coveted it for signing with the Giants on March 17, 2006. While the trade was made, Feagles claims Burress never owned up and he was stuck paying for the kitchen himself. “Every time I went to Drew [Rosenhaus] he said, that’s between you and Plax,” Feagles told Sports Illustrated. “Bottom line, I never got paid. He basically stole my number.” Not that Burress hasn’t had bigger problems since, but Feagles can always revisit the dispute once Burress is granted his early release in June.

Sheriff Gonna Getcha

Turns out Rosenhaus has been in the middle of a shirt showdown before. When his client, Clinton Portis, signed with the Redskins in 2004, he made a $40,000 deal with Ifeanyi Ohalete for No. 26. While Portis paid half up front, the deal stated that Ohalete would get another $10,000 in Week 8 and the last installment by Christmas — but when Ohalete was cut in training camp, Portis assumed the contract was void. Ohalete thought otherwise and filed a lawsuit. The case was eventually settled out of court.

Rice (Twice)

When Jerry Rice rolled into Seattle in 2004, the fans were outraged that he was going to take their beloved Steve Largent’s No. 80, but Largent was more than obliging, telling the Seattle Times “Jerry is a special player. Frankly, I’m proud he asked.”

But Rice didn’t have as much luck when he showed up to Broncos’ training camp the following year hoping to make a deal with No. 80 wearing Rod Smith.

“That feels like someone saying ‘Hey man, let your neighbor use your wife,’” Smith said in a Sirius satellite interview.

So what’s with all the attachment to laundry?

For some, they want to keep it in the family like Peyton Manning wearing No. 18 in honor of his father Archie who wore the number at Mississippi. (As an aside, Long chose otherwise. His HOF father, Howie Long, wore No. 75.)

For others, it’s all about branding, which goes back to Brian Bosworth who fought (and lost) for No. 44 to coincide with his line of sunglasses and jeans called “44 Boz Blues.”

Following suit is Ochocinco who would be filling out a whole lot of paperwork if he wore anything else but No. 85.

But one illuminating reason came from Patriots DT Gerard Warren when he explained what it felt like to get his college number again when he was with the Broncos.

“I felt rejuvenated,” Warren told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I felt like I was back to completely being who I am as a football player. No. 94 just had a body in it that was running around but 61 gives me an extra edge.”

For a complete list of Hall of Fame players by number click here. (Spoiler: No. 22 and No. 44 rule with 11 HOFers each.)

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