National Football League team captains

Oakland Raiders 2nd-year captain patch
Indianapolis Colts 3rd-year captain patch
Chicago Bears 5+-year captain patch

In the National Football League, the team captain designation is a team-appointed position that designates certain players as leaders on and off the field. The captains program was implemented by the NFL Player Advisory Council established by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in conjunction with the NFL Players Association. Starting in 2007, the league began permitting teams to name up to six players as captains.[1]

Players who have been named a team captain typically have a "C" patch on their jerseys. There is a standard design used by all teams participating in the captaincy program. The patches are in team colors and are worn on the front left or right breast (depending on other patches, etc. worn by the specific team). The number of stars filled in on the patch represents the number of consecutive years that player has been named captain by that team. If they've been named captain for longer than four years, the "C" on the patch is gold. Some teams (e.g. Pittsburgh and New England) do not have this patch on their jerseys but still designate captains. In the case of the Green Bay Packers, they would use weekly captains during the regular season, but would switch to assigning captains whenever they qualify for the playoffs.

The New York Jets suspended designated team captains after an incident involving Santonio Holmes in a 2011 game. In the 4th quarter of the final game of the 2011 season against the Miami Dolphins, Holmes appeared to get into an argument with Jets offensive tackle Wayne Hunter while the team was huddling. As a result of the argument, Holmes was benched for the remainder of the game, and the Jets ended up losing the game, which resulted in the Jets missing the postseason for the first time in three years. His leadership qualities and credibility as a captain have since been questioned. In 2015, under new head coach Todd Bowles, the Jets resumed appointing captains weekly.[2]

During special recognitions, the patch may be a different color; e.g., pink for breast cancer awareness;[3] or camouflage for military service recognition.

Because of the nature of the game, most teams include their starting quarterbacks as an offensive captain. While the starting quarterback has no other responsibility or authority, he may, depending on the league or individual team, have various informal duties, such as participation in pre-game ceremonies, the coin toss, or other events outside the game. Often compared to captains of other team sports, the starting quarterback is usually the de facto team leader and a well-respected player on and off the field, even before the NFL implemented the team captain's patch in 2007.


NFL rule 18 details the guidelines for team captains. Within Rule 18, there are four articles that pertain to:

  1. Number of Team Captains
  2. Coin Toss Procedures
  3. Choice on Penalty Option
  4. Change of [Team] Captains

Coin Toss Procedures – Each team can send as many as 6 team captains to the center of the field. On each team, one captain is designated the "speaking captain" of the delegation. The visiting team or the team designated "visitor" by the referee (if no team is declared 'visitor') shall choose "heads or tails" or in the case of a special ceremony coin, the options on the face and rear of that coin.

The winner of the coin toss have 3 options, 1. Defer the choice to the second half, 2. Receive/kick the ball, 3. Choose an end zone to defend. There is strategy in employing your election. It could depend on such conditions as weather, or making an aggressive statement at the beginning of the game, or something simple as coming out of the locker room in the second half receiving the ball.

After the winning captain makes their choice, the opposing team captain chooses from the remaining 2 options.

Choice on Penalty Option(s) – The offended team captain has a choice of accepting a penalty enforcement or declining, except where said penalty is automatically "enforced by rule." In some circumstances, a team captain may elect to "decline" the penalty. This typically happens in a situation in which declining the penalty may mean that the next down should occur (3rd or 4th). A good example would be on an "offensive holding" enforcement, the defensive team might elect a "4th down and 5 yards to gain" v. a "3rd down and 15 yards to gain."


Players listed in bold currently wear the 5+ star all gold captain patches.

Team Offensive Captain(s) Defensive Captain(s) Special Teams Captain(s)
Arizona Cardinals[4] Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson Justin Bethel, Chandler Catanzaro
Atlanta Falcons[5] Matt Ryan, Julio Jones Jonathan Babineaux, Desmond Trufant Eric Weems
Baltimore Ravens[6] Appointed weekly
Buffalo Bills[7] Appointed weekly
Carolina Panthers[8] Cam Newton, Ryan Kalil, Greg Olsen Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Charles Johnson None
Chicago Bears Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan Sherrick McManis
Cincinnati Bengals[9] Andrew Whitworth, Andy Dalton Domata Peko, Michael Johnson, Adam Jones Vincent Rey
Cleveland Browns[10] Joe Thomas, Andrew Hawkins Joe Haden, Demario Davis Tank Carder
Dallas Cowboys[11] Travis Frederick, Jason Witten Barry Church, Sean Lee Dan Bailey
Denver Broncos[12] Demaryius Thomas DeMarcus Ware Kayvon Webster
Detroit Lions[13] Appointed weekly
Green Bay Packers[14] Appointed weekly
Houston Texans[15] Appointed weekly
Indianapolis Colts[16] Andrew Luck Robert Mathis Adam Vinateri
Jacksonville Jaguars[17] Blake Bortles Paul Posluszny Carson Tinker
Kansas City Chiefs[18] Alex Smith Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry, Dustin Colquitt
Miami Dolphins[19] Ryan Tannehill, Mike Pouncey Cameron Wake, John Denney Michael Thomas
Minnesota Vikings Kyle Rudolph Everson Griffen, Chad Greenway, Brian Robison None
New England Patriots[20] Rob Gronkowski Dont'a Hightower, Devin McCourty Matthew Slater
New Orleans Saints[21] Drew Brees, Max Unger Cameron Jordan, James Laurinaitis Michael Mauti
New York Giants[22] Eli Manning Jonathan Casillas Zak DeOssie
New York Jets[23] Appointed weekly
Oakland Raiders[24] Rodney Hudson, Derek Carr Khalil Mack, Reggie Nelson None
Philadelphia Eagles Appointed weekly
Pittsburgh Steelers[25] Ben Roethlisberger William Gay, Cameron Heyward Robert Golden
San Diego Chargers[26] Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates Melvin Ingram, Brandon Mebane Darrell Stuckey
San Francisco 49ers[27] Appointed weekly
Seattle Seahawks[28] Russell Wilson Kam Chancellor, DeShawn Shead Jon Ryan
Los Angeles Rams[29] Case Keenum, Todd Gurley Alec Ogletree, Aaron Donald Johnny Hekker
Tampa Bay Buccaneers[30] Vincent Jackson, Jameis Winston Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David Russell Shepard
Tennessee Titans[31] Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker Brian Orakpo, Wesley Woodyard Daimion Stafford
Washington Redskins[32] Trent Williams, Kirk Cousins DeAngelo Hall, Will Compton Niles Paul


  2. "NFL supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month". National Football League. September 28, 2011. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
  3. Jess Root, "Arizona Cardinals select captains, Larry Fitzgerald not one of them",, September 3, 2014
  4. Camille Powell, "NFL's Newest Promotion",, October 3, 2007
  5. Sessler, Marc (September 1, 2014). "EJ Manuel not among Buffalo Bills' team captains". National Football League. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  6. "Panthers select 2014 captains",, September 1, 2014
  8. Jodie Valade, "Chudzinski Names Game Captains for Home Opener",, September 6, 2013
  9. "Dallas Cowboys name their five captains for 2014 season", Dallas Morning News, September 5, 2013
  10. Lauren Giudice, "Broncos name team captains",, September 1, 2014
  11. Justin Rogers, "Ndamukong Suh one of six Detroit Lions players named captain",, September 6, 2013
  12. Duke Robber, Green Bay Packers captains, October 21, 2016
  13. Dale Robertson, "Texans won’t have permanent captains to start season", Ultimate Texans blog, September 5, 2014
  14. "Colts Vote Captains", Colts.Com, December 5, 2012
  15. ,, September 6, 2013
  16. "Chiefs’ Alex Smith, Dwayne Bowe among team captains for opener",, September 6, 2013
  17. "Miami Dolphins won't elect permanent team captains", Miami Sun Sentinel, September 6, 2012
  18. Rob Gronkowski, Dont'a Hightower named first-time Patriots captains,, September 6, 2016
  19. Josh Katzenstein, "New Orleans Saints announce captains for 2016", The Times-Picayune, September 8, 2016.
  20. "Team Captains Announced", September 13, 2015
  21. Metro: Todd Bowles has new plan for Jets' team captains... well, not really. Retrieved on 9 September 2015.
  23. September 6, 2015
  25. Niners Nation: 49ers name nine team captains for 2015. Retrieved on 8 September 2015.
  26. Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor, Jon Ryan and DeShawn Shead Voted 2016 Captains By Seahawks Teammates. Retrieved on 8 September 2016.
  27. "Rams name captains for 2013 season",, September 5, 2013
  28. "Jameis Winston Among Bucs' Captains",, September 5, 2016
  29. Glennon, John (October 21, 2015). "Titans name six permanent captains". Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  30. Czarda, Stephen (September 6, 2016). "Five Announced as 2016 Redskins Team Captains". Retrieved September 6, 2016.
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