- Associated Press - Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gimme head with hair,

Long, beautiful hair.

Shining, gleaming,

Streaming, flaxen, waxen.

Give me down to there hair,

Shoulder length or longer.

_ Lyrics from the musical, “Hair”


Hair is where it’s at if you want to stand out in the NFL.

From Troy Polamalu’s thick mass of curls to Domata Peko’s fluffy, lionlike mane to Chris Johnson’s dreads to Clay Matthews‘ grunge look, players all over the NFL are going long.

Coaches, too. This means you, Rob Ryan.

“I see around the league a lot of guys are growing the hair out, not only Samoans but dudes with blond hair and dreadlocks and stuff like that,” said Peko, the Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle whose hair reaches all the way down to his waist. “It’s pretty cool. It’s good to see.”

It wasn’t so long ago that there were only a handful of long hairs in the league, and just one or two with truly eye-catching ‘dos. When Larry Johnson yanked Polamalu down by his hair in 2006 on a 49-yard interception return, it set off a buzz about whether hair pulling was legal. It is. The NFL considers hair part of the uniform.

Now cascading tresses _ tamed, braided and otherwise _ are everywhere.

Nearly every team has at least one player with hair long enough to obscure his name on the back of the uniform. The Arizona Cardinals are the unofficial league leader in hirsuteness, with eight. (It was nine, but receiver Steve Breaston shaved his head this week.) Even New England’s Tom Brady, he of chiseled good looks, is hip to long-is-better, though some have questioned the wisdom of his Justin Bieber-esque shag.

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