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The new Commanders player jersey numbers will take some time to get used to

Washington Commanders Off-Season Workout Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

When I think of #23 on the Washington team, I think of cornerbacks - guys like DeAngelo Hall and, more recently, William Jackson III. There have been DBs like Will Blackmon and Matt Bowen who have worn #41, but somehow, seeing that number on JD McKissic seemed just right. The sight of #41 catching a checkdown pass and turning it into a long gain, a first down or a touchdown has become almost routine over the past two seasons.

That’s why this was such an easy mistake to make:

This video of #41 catching a pass going away looks all-too familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to the Washington team since Ron Rivera signed JD McKissic to play here.

Trouble is, JD McKissic isn’t #41 anymore; he has changed his number to 23 for the coming season, and that’s a change I’m not real excited about because I always liked #41 on McKissic. (By the way, #41 is now Jonathan Williams, who wore #38 last season).

That number change is just one of a half-dozen or more that have taken place this year, with 3 of the changes being part of a chain that may cause a few double-takes by fans during the preseason and early regular season games until everyone gets used to them.

Joey Slye

The “domino” effect was started by Joey Slye, the team’s placekicker, who said that he felt uncomfortable wearing #3 last season because that had been Dustin Hopkins’ number.

Slye’s story about the number is intriguing, and involves his brother. Slye says that, growing up, his brother A.J. always wore #6 while Joey wore #7 whenever he could.

Arriving in Carolina in 2019, the #7 jersey belonged to QB Kyle Allen, so the kicker ended up wearing #4. When he was signed as an injury replacement for Ka’imi Fairbairn in Houston in ‘21, the incumbent was wearing #7, so Slye ended up with a rare double-digit kicker’s jersey, #16. When he signed with the 49ers to replace injured Robbie Gould just a few days after Fairbairn’s return, #7 was on the back of QB Nate Sudfeld, and Slye ended up in the #14 jersey.

When he got to Washington, Joey Slye’s luck continued in the same form. While the last occupant of the #7 jersey, Dwayne Haskins, was no longer with the team, the shadow of Joe Theismann was a bit too much for Joey Slye. He could never wear #7 in the burgundy & gold. He ended up in the recently vacated #3 jersey that, as mentioned, had previously belonged to Dustin Hopkins. Slye’s second-choice of number the #6 that his brother had always worn, belonged, at the time, to practice squad QB Kyle Shurmur.

And that brings us to the 2022 season. Shurmur was gone, and #6 was available, so Joey Slye made the change that set several other number changes in motion.

But why did Joey Slye want to wear his brother’s number?

Well, Slye’s late brother, A.J., wore No. 6 in every sport growing up. Unfortunately, A.J. tragically died of leukemia in November of 2014. After re-signing with Washington in April, Slye said he had his first real opportunity to choose his number in the NFL and wanted to honor his brother with it.

“I was always No. 7 and A.J. was No. 6,” Slye said. “I was thinking about trying to go for No. 7, but I know Joe [Theismann] wore it, and then with everything with [the late] Dwayne [Haskins] as well [happened] right around the time we were looking at [changing numbers]. So, I’d much rather wear No. 6 for my brother than No. 7 for myself.

When you see Joey Slye on the field kicking in his #6 Commanders jersey this season, it will be in honor of his late brother, A.J.

William Jackson III

Washington’s cornerback, WJ3, spent last season — his first in Washington — wearing a familiar cornerback jersey number, #23, which had been associated for many seasons with DeAngelo Hall.

It turns out that Jackson had worn #3 at the University of Houston, and, although the new rules for jersey numbers went into effect prior to last season and would have allowed the cornerback to wear his old college number, it belonged got it...the long-tenured placekicker, Dustin Hopkins.

Houston v Florida State - Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

Jackson had worn #22 in Cincinnati, but that number belonged to the veteran safety Deshazor Everett.

William Jackson found out that Slye was changing from #3 to #6 and immediately called ‘dibs’ on #3, which is what he will wear this season as one of the Commanders’ starting boundary corners.

JD McKissic

As I said at the top of the article, my least favorite number change will happen as a result of #23 being vacated by WJ3. JD McKissic, who I think looks absolutely perfect in #41, doesn’t agree and says he never liked the number.

McKissic wore #23 at Arkansas State, though this will be the first time he’s been able to wear it as a pro.

GoDaddy Bowl - Toledo v Arkansas State Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

As a rookie with the Falcons, McKissic had been a wide receiver and return man, wearing #85. When he joined the Seahawks, his role changed and so did his number. He couldn’t have #23 because it belonged to safety Steven Terrell. The following season, Neiko Thorpe wore 23 and McKissic started wearing #21. That didn’t change for the 2 seasons that they were both in Seattle.

In 2019, McKissic went to the Lions, where Tracy Walker had #21 and Darius Slay wore #23. McKIssic ended up wearing #41.

I honestly don’t know if McKissic prefers #21 to #23, but when he arrived in Washington, Ronald Darby was wearing McKissic’s old college number, while #21, for obvious reasons, was completely off-limits. McKissic stuck with the jersey number he had worn in 2019 in Detroit.

This offseason, when Joey Slye switched to #6 and WJ3 switched to #3, McKissic wasted no time in claiming #23.

“I just always wanted to be 23,” McKissic said. “I was never able to get 23 because of my status in the locker room at the same time, but 23 made itself available and I took it.”

McKissic said he didn’t know No. 23 was going to be available until he saw on Twitter that Jackson III was changing his uniform to No. 3. Immediately, the veteran running back called head equipment manager Drew Hampton and said “let me get No. 23.”

Cam Sims

For the first 3 years of his NFL career, wide receiver Cam Sims wore the #89 jersey, which I thought looked pretty good on him.

Last year, when the numbering rules were liberalized, Cam Sims was ready for a change.

At Alabama, Sims had been #17 but, of course, that was Terry McLaurin’s number here in Washington.

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T Set Number: X161614 TK1

I’m not sure why Sims chose #11, but that’s what he wore in 2021.

Of course, the arrival of Carson Wentz raised a question. Wentz had worn #11 in college and in Philadelphia, but he ended up with #2 in Indianapolis because Michael Pittman, who also wore #11, got to Indy first.

Wentz wore No. 20 when he was in high school and always felt drawn to the number two. But when he arrived at North Dakota State, another player was already wearing No. 2, so he settled on No. 11 — which he became attached to through his time in Fargo and then Philadelphia. But No. 11 is taken here in Indianapolis.

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

“When the trade went down, I obviously reached out to (Michael) Pittman Jr.) right away and I said hey, no pressure, are you married to No. 11? And he said yeah, I think so,” Wentz said. “And I’m like cool, no worries.”

But with 11 taken, Wentz had an opportunity to switch to a number he’s wanted to wear for years.

I guess Cam Sims was even less “married to” #11 than Carson Wentz had been. Sims story of surrendering the number to his new starting quarterback sounds a lot like Wentz’s story of not making an issue of the jersey number with Michael Pittman in Indy:

Shortly after Wentz was introduced as Washington’s newest signal-caller, news broke he’d be wearing No. 11 for the Commanders. From Sims’ perspective, it sounded like a pretty easy negotiation.

“We just spoke about it and he was like, ‘Can I get it?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. You can get it,’” Sims said.

When asked if Sims received any cash or gift from Wentz in order to hand over No. 11, the wideout said “nah, nah” while smiling. Sims has returned to No. 89, which remained vacant in 2021 after he had switched to No. 11.

Darrick Forrest

The young safety explains this number change pretty efficiently: “Ah, man, 48 just looked a little hefty on me,” Forrest said. “People kept asking if I was playing linebacker!”

NFL: NOV 14 Buccaneers at Washington Football Team Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Forrest’s new number will be 22, a number that had been worn for several seasons by Forrest’s good friend, Deshazor Everett, who was recently released from the team after a tragic accident that occurred late last season in which Everett’s girlfriend, Olivia Peters, died when Everett lost control of his car.

Per NBC Sports, Forrest wants to emulate Everett, who was a special teams standout during his time with the Commanders, a role Forrest — who thrived on special teams in college — is hoping to earn this season. Everett’s impact on Forrest is a big reason for his decision to switch to No. 22.

“I rock with No. 22 for my dawg Shaze,” Forrest said. “Got to keep that legacy going.”


Here’s the recap of the 5 returning players who will be in new jersey numbers in 2022: