Ask Farmer: What do the stars under the ‘C’ of the captain’s football jersey mean?

Rams' Andrew Whitworth was voted by his teammates as one of the team's captains this season.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to:

What do the stars under the “C” of the captain’s football jersey mean?

Dale Widolff



Farmer: Beginning in 2007, the NFL allowed teams to designate as many as six captains per season. Each of those players wears a “C” on the upper right corner of his chest. There are four stars underneath the C that designate the number of years of service as a captain. Those are changed from white to gold for each year the player has been a captain with that franchise. When a player reaches five years of service, he gets a gold C with four gold stars underneath.

Under the current system, it doesn’t matter if that player has been a captain with another franchise. He starts over with four white stars. So, for instance, Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth has only two gold stars, even though he has been a captain 10 times in his career — the first eight with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he wore a gold C. There’s a movement afoot to change the league rules, so those accrued years carry over, even if a player switches teams.

“Seems like you would want to promote guys across the league that have continued to be great ambassadors for the game,” Whitworth said.

Whitworth said it’s particularly meaningful if captains are voted in by their teammates, as opposed to being chosen by coaches. In Cincinnati, for instance, Marvin Lewis has selected captains unilaterally in some seasons. With the Rams, it’s a team vote.

“I think of it like a military badge,” Whitworth said. “It gives an honor or certain respect to people about that player, and what he has been through and accomplished.”


Can penalties under the new hitting or “leading with the head” calls be challenged and/or reviewed?

Patrick Madalo


Farmer: The new rule that bans players on either side of the ball from lowering their helmets to initiate contact is not reviewable, and therefore cannot be challenged. The Competition Committee could decide to change that, but at the moment the word of the officials is final.

Although the aim is to make the game safer, it’s a highly controversial change. Last month, for instance, San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman tweeted: “There is no ‘make adjustment’ to the way you tackle. Even in a perfect form tackle the body is led by the head. The rule is idiotic And should be dismissed immediately. When you watch rugby players tackle they are still leading by their head. Will be flag football soon.”