How Patriots led push to change NFL rule and bring red throwback uniform back The New England Patriots on Wednesday unveiled their classic alternates, but it was years in the making.

Alexandra Francisco writer

Old trends tend to come back in style if you stick around long enough. Just ask Andre Tippett.


The Pro Football Hall of Famer transitioned to the administrative side of things after his retirement from the New England Patriots, but the current Director of Community Relations still loves seeing a red jersey with his No. 56 sprinkled amid a sea of navy and white on game days at Gillette Stadium.


With the red throwback uniforms officially back in the Patriots' closet 30 years after Tippett wore it regularly, that pop of color is about to become more prevalent this upcoming season.


"There's nothing like the old throwback jerseys," Tippet said. "I'd love to see more people representing old-school football."


The Patriots uniforms didn't change significantly through the first three-plus decades of the franchise's existence, but even after the switch to a short-lived royal blue that preceded the navy and silver of the 2000s, the red throwback jerseys didn't disappear entirely.


New England brought them out as alternates sporadically between 1994 and 2012, with a winning 9-3 record in those games. But to the disappointment of many, a 2013 rule change imposed by the NFL to improve player safety mandated that every club stick to one helmet.


The idea was that a worn-in helmet was safer to play in, as the concussion epidemic became a growing concern across the league. It didn't feel right to blend the red throwback jerseys with a silver helmet and the modern-day logo, so the alternate was taken out of the Patriots' rotation for the meantime.


Behind the scenes, though, New England led the charge to change the rule while maintaining player safety.


"There was a sort of understanding here that, no, we're not going to wear the silver helmets with the red throwbacks, right? That would be a different alternate uniform," Ali Towle, Vice President of Customer Marketing & Brand for Kraft Sports + Entertainment, said.


"We wanted to stay pure to that original throwback, and so that's why we waited and kept lobbying the league to change it back. We fought the good fight."


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