Emmanuel Sanders donned No. 88 during his four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He sported No. 10 for the last six years of his NFL career with the Denver Broncos. In San Francisco, No. 88 is currently occupied by veteran tight end Garrett Celek, and well, 10 is unavailable for obvious reasons.
Now it's officially official. The receiver took part in his first practice as a member of the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday wearing No. 17. The number was previously owned by rookie receiver Jalen Hurd, who was compensated in exchange for the number (Hurd will now wear No. 14 for the 49ers).
"I had to pay for it, but it's all good," Sanders told the media on Wednesday.
Sanders previously wore No. 17 during his four-year career at Southern Methodist University. He finished his collegiate career with 285 receptions for 3,791 yards receiving and 34 touchdowns and was selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Jordan Matthews and Trent Taylor are a recent example of the importance of a jersey number. Matthews wore 81 through four of his six years in the NFL and handsomely compensated Taylor for the number. Richard Sherman was another notable 49ers addition to chalk up some change in exchange for his iconic jersey number. Jimmie Ward spent his first four seasons in San Francisco as No. 25 when he ultimately decided to offer up the threads to the respected corner for minimal compensation.
The number change has worked out well for both of the defensive backs as Ward is off to his best start as a member of the 49ers and Sherman is looking like his vintage self. Meanwhile, Sanders is looking to get acclimated in his new home. The veteran receiver arrived to the 49ers facility around 9 p.m. PT on Tuesday night and immediately began studying Kyle Shanahan's playbook.
Sanders was an active participant in Wednesday's practice and quickly began building a rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo during the 49ers open session. The sure-handed receiver will be relied upon as San Francisco looks to bolster its passing game. The wideout is one of just five players with at least 40 targets and 8 yards before the catch per reception to not be credited with a dropped pass yet this season.
As San Francisco looks to keep its foot on the gas following the 6-0 start to the season, Sanders will be embracing a fresh opportunity and new surroundings to re-ignite his 10th season in the NFL.
"It feels good (to be here)," Sanders said. "Obviously, I've got a lot of love for the Broncos. I spent six years there, won a Super Bowl there. I love that organization. But to be a 49er, it's like a new energy and new environment. It reminds me of when I left the Steelers and went to the Broncos. I needed a change of scenery. And what a great locker room the 49ers have here. I'm just going to try to come and bring even more positive energy and bring another spark to this offense.
"The environment here is just so light, but at the end of the day, we have a concentration and we have a focus on the task at hand."
Shanahan expects the receiver to be active on Sunday as the 49ers host the Carolina Panthers in Week 8.