The storied history of the Buffalo Bills features four jersey numbers that are considered untouchable—that would never be donned by another player as long as the franchise exists:
Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly had his No. 12 retired by the Bills, as did Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith (No. 78) and Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas (No. 34).
The fourth untouchable jersey in Bills history, No. 32, belonged to Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson, who was one of the most breathtaking backs in league history. Simpson’s on-field glory has been surpassed by his off-field antics, including a double-murder trial in 1995 (Simpson was acquitted), and a conviction in 2007 of armed robbery.
Now, for the first time since the 1977 season, the Buffalo Bills have given the No. 32 to an active player, as Buffalo kicked off its organized team activities with running back/special teamer Senorise Perry sporting No. 32.
Despite the off-field issues, Simpson’s name sits on the Bills’ Wall of Fame, and his No. 32 jersey is still retired at USC. Simpson belongs to both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame—honors befitting one of the game’s greatest running backs who was named the NFL’s most valuable player in 1973, and was a five-time, first-team All-Pro as a member of the Bills.
Simpson became the first tailback in league history to rush for more than 2,000 yards (1973), and he led the league in rushing four times, and rushing touchdowns twice.
Perry, who has worn the No. 32 as a tribute to his family, is competing for a roster spot on the team as part of a crowded backfield that already has LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon, Marcus Murphy, and Christian Wade.
While Perry’s talents and coverage skills on special teams help him stand out above his fellow running backs, the decision to award the No. 32 to a current player is sure to draw mixed reactions among Bills fans.
Then again, maybe Buffalo’s decision to bring back the No. 32 and assign it to an unassuming player like Perry represents a shift in the team’s mentality and demonstrates that the jersey doesn’t hold the same significance that it did when Simpson was galloping and gliding his way to glory in the 1970s.