Reverse field: Bush going with No. 5 at card shoot
Reggie Bush just might return to the Coliseum this weekend for the NFL Rookie Premiere wearing the No. 5.
Just hours an official with the NFL Players Association said that Bush, a running back, would be wearing No. 25 for the union's trading photo shoot, Bush's marketing agent Mike Ornstein told ESPN.com that the team is fine with Bush wearing No. 5, and his client will do so.
|To the Commish|
Reggie Bush's efforts to get No. 5 will have to go to the desk of commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The NFL Competition Committee held a conference call last Friday and talked about changing the uniform numbering policy.
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On Tuesday, Ornstein said he lobbied Saints officials, who have the final say on what number Bush will wear for the photo shoot, and apparently prevailed. Calls placed to the Saints were not immediately returned.
Both No. 5 and No. 25 jerseys will be on hand at the event, according to Pam Adolph, vice president of apparel operations for Players Inc., the union's marketing arm.
For years, Players Inc. has been putting on the event so that card companies can release cards with players in their jerseys before the season starts. Almost all the players have their numbers set by the time of the shoot, though it's not unprecedented that a player has worn a different number jersey at the shoot than he did once the season started. In 2004, Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. wore No. 11, but at the end of the preseason, Winslow convinced Aaron Shea to allow him to wear No. 80.
"Guys have been shot in one number and wound up playing in another," Adolph said. "If the Saints are OK with it and Reggie is OK with it, we don't see it as a big deal."
Bush wore No. 5 in high school and at the University of Southern California, but under current NFL rules, running backs are only allowed to wear numbers 20 through 49. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPN.com on Monday that the owners will not be voting specifically on a Bush exemption. In order for Bush to be granted No. 5, the numbering rules themselves would have to be changed.
Ornstein originally said that Bush would donate 25 percent of all the royalties he received from jersey sales toward Hurricane Katrina charities if the league granted him the right to wear No. 5. But Ornstein said that Bush has now agreed to make the donation no matter what number he wears.
Saints running back Fred McAfee currently wears the No. 25, so it's not exactly clear whether that number will definitely be worn by Bush.
"Truthfully, with Reggie Bush, it's not going to matter what number he wears," Josh Goodstadt, an executive with Players Inc., which oversees the production of more than 32 million packs of NFL player trading cards each year. "He's already so hot in the trading card world and the input we've gathered from our licensees is that the number he wears, in the long run, won't help or hurt the sales of his cards."
Ornstein says he really believes there's value in Bush using the No. 5 and if he doesn't get his wish, wearing "5" this weekend will make Bush's cards with the number more valuable, Ornstein said.
With the jersey number still undecided, preorders of Bush's jerseys have slowed down a bit, according to Reebok vice president Eddie White.
"Right after the draft, Bush jerseys were red hot," White said. "Now it's more like lukewarm because there are retailers who are cutting back on their orders due to the uncertainty."
White, who noted that orders for Bush jerseys and Vince Young jerseys have each surpassed 20,000, said he predicts that will all change once a number is arrived at.
On Monday, Bush -- in conjunction with his sponsor adidas -- contributed $50,000 to the Holy Rosary School, a learning disabilities school in Louisiana that was in danger of closing.
Bush surprisingly wore Nikes at minicamp despite a multi-million dollar deal with adidas. Ornstein said Bush's adidas shoes had not yet arrived.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at email@example.com.
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