New England Patriots

Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball as he is chased by Ja'Whaun Bentley #51 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field on September 20, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The NFL expanded its jersey number rules for the 2021 season. And Ja’Whaun Bentley is taking advantage.

Bentley revealed on Twitter last Friday that he’s switching his number from 51 to 8 for the coming season. After the NFL changed its rules to expand the allowable jersey numbers for players, linebackers can now wear either 1-59 or 90-99. The Patriots voted against the rule change, according to Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk. But Bill Belichick is obviously OK with Bentley wearing an unconventional number for his position.

Elevated to a major role out of necessity due to major roster turnover at linebacker, Bentley played 608 defensive snaps (60 percent) in 2020 for the Patriots, more than his 2018 and 2019 snaps combined. He played in 13 games and started all of them.

As primarily an inside linebacker, Bentley will be serving the “Mike” role most of the time he’s on the field in 2021. So when Tom Brady, who publicly complained about the rule change, comes to Foxboro with the Buccaneers in Week 4 this season, he’s going to be annoyed having to shout “8’s the mike!” repeatedly. Score one for Bill, I suppose.

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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at