The NFL is back. Here are 5 things to know

Arjun Ram
Story by Arjun Ram and CBC Kids News • 2021-09-09 06:00

Jersey numbers, rookie quarterbacks and a Canadian doctor


The NFL season has officially touched down for football fans.

Defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Dallas Cowboys Thursday night in Tampa Bay, Florida, for the season opener, kicking off 18 weeks of football.

But before we get started on the road to Super Bowl LVI, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 23, 2022, here are a few things you should know about the upcoming season.

1. More jersey number changes allowed

You might see your favourite player with a different number on their jersey this season.

Originally, only quarterbacks, punters and kickers were allowed to wear single-digit jersey numbers. In April, however, NFL owners approved a rule change that would allow more positions to do so.

With the newly implemented rule, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers can now wear numbers 1-49 and 80-89.

A split screen image of Emmanuel Sanders in his old number 17 on the right, and in his new number 1 on the left.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders changed his number from 17 to 1 this season. (Image credit: Timothy T. Ludwig/Getty Images and Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Defensive backs will also be permitted to wear numbers 1-49 and linebackers will be allowed to wear jerseys 1-59 and 90-99.

2. Record-breaking number of rookie quarterbacks

It was a historic 2021 draft for the quarterback position.

Eight quarterbacks were selected in the first three rounds of the draft, which is the most in NFL history, according to the league.

Some of the most notable include:

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence cocks his arm back ready to throw in a medium close up.

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall in the 2021 NFL draft. (Image credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

These quarterbacks are coming off impressive years in college.

The expectations for their professional careers are substantial, as these franchises are in deep need of revitalization.

3. The Canadian doctor is back in play

Kansas City's offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif played an integral role during his team’s Super Bowl win in 2020.

After that championship year, the Quebec native — who also happens to be a medical doctor — opted out of the 2020-2021 season to work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as an orderly in a long-term care facility in Montreal.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif holds the super bowl trophy as confetti explodes behind him.

The last NFL game that Laurent Duvernay-Tardif played was Kansas City's 2020 Super Bowl victory. (Image credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Now, after a year away from the sport, Tardif is set to return to Kansas City to play football.

“It's now time for me to transition back into football, but there is no doubt that those 10 months working part-time in a long-term care facility will help me become a better physician,” Tardif said in an Instagram post on May 8.

4. COVID-19 restrictions haven’t gone away

During the off-season, COVID-19 continued to make headlines in the NFL.

Prior to the start of training camps and the pre-season, the NFL and National Football League Players Association (the players’ labour union) agreed to implement COVID-19 protocols for players.

The rules involve travel restrictions, testing protocols and mask mandates.

Those rules are different depending on whether a player is vaccinated.

A close up shot of an NFL referee wearing a face mask.

NFL side judge David Meslow wears a mask during a pre-season NFL game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Rams. (Image credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

During August’s pre-season games, only 0.3 per cent of players who were vaccinated contracted COVID-19, league officials said.

Compare that to a 2.2 per cent infection rate amongst unvaccinated players.

As of Aug. 26, the league said 93 per cent of players in the NFL had been fully vaccinated.

5. Tom Brady is here to stay

Just when many believed he would retire after a disappointing 2019-2020 season, Tom Brady did the unthinkable.

Last season, the 43-year-old moved to a new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and captured the elusive Lombardi trophy, his seventh.

Tom Brady walks along side his head coach as they chat during practice.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, left and quarterback Tom Brady talk during a pre-season game against the Tennessee Titans. (Image credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Now at 44, Brady is entering his 22nd season and is embarking on yet another Super Bowl run.

Of course, the question of whether he can do it again remains, but Tampa returns as a legitimate contender for the title.

The team has the fourth-easiest schedule in the NFL, meaning it doesn’t have to face the top teams as often.

Tampa also brought back all of its starters from 2020.

And if Tampa can’t repeat a win with Brady leading the offence, he’s made it clear that 2021 will not be his final season.

“Hopefully, I'll be here a long time,” Brady told the Tampa Bay Times on Sept. 4. “For many years.”

Have more questions? We'll look into it for you. Email us at

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Bob Levey/Getty Images with graphic design by Philip Street/CBC

Editor’s note: CBC Kids News has decided not to publish the full Kansas City team name because some say it’s inappropriate and hurtful to Indigenous Peoples.

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About the Contributor

Arjun Ram
Arjun Ram
CBC Kids News Contributor
Arjun Ram is a Grade 11 French immersion student from Hamilton, Ont., with many diverse interests such as sports, music and math. Arjun has developed an interest in reporting on social and political issues as well as important developments in the area of professional sports. He hopes to one day work as a news anchor for CBC.

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