49ers' Jed York explains why he voted against new NFL kickoff rule


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NFL team owners voted to make a massive overhaul of the kickoff rules on Tuesday, with 29 of them favoring the change and three others voting against the proposal.

San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York was among the three who voted against the new kickoff rules, which takes a page out of the rebooted XFL’s rules. He explained why he voted against it to reporters after the change was passed.

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San Francisco 49ers chief executive officer Jed York is seen during pregame warmups prior to an NFL football game against the New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium on Sept. 21, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Ryan Kang/Getty Images)

“I think the concern is that it’s such a drastic change to a play,” he said, via Sports Illustrated. From a health and safety standpoint, we’ve tried to address the play. It was the most, highest rated injury play that existed, so they’re going from that to trying to reintroduce the play into the game and make it more of a real play as opposed to a ceremonial play. I’m 100% for that. I just want to make sure with something that’s brand new that we have the opportunity to address it during the middle of the season.

“Then, if there’s injury data or a competitive issue that doesn’t work. That it’s not ‘this is the asterisk season of the kickoff rule that didn’t work.’ I’m 100% for trying to make that play active in our game again. They’ve put in a ton of time, a ton of effort to try to make something work. I’m just sure that there’s going to be tweaks to it, and I’d rather tweak it if we have to in the middle of the season, as opposed to ‘Here’s the asterisk season, and we’re gonna tweak it at the end of the year.’ That’s it.”

Jed York and George Kittle

CEO Jed York and George Kittle, #85 of the San Francisco 49ers, in the locker room after the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on Dec. 17, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

The new rule will have a trial during the 2024 season and will have to be voted on again to be renewed for 2025.

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For the basic kickoff, the ball would be kicked from the 35-yard line with 10 other members of special teams lined up at the opposing 40-yard line. Five players will be lined up on each side of the field.

The return team will have at least nine blocks lined up in the so-called “set up zone” between the 30- and 35-yard line. At least seven of those players will be touching the 35-yard line. Two returners will be allowed inside their own 20-yard line.

Jed York at 49ers-Cardinals

CEO Jed York of the San Francisco 49ers before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on Dec. 17, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

Only the kicker and two returners would be allowed to move until either the ball hits the ground or is touched by a returner inside the 20-yard line. A kick that reaches the end zone in the air can either be returned or the returning team could opt for a touchback, in which the team will receive the ball at the 30-yard line. If the ball goes out of the end zone, it will result in a touchback at the 30.

If a ball hits a returner or the ground before the end zone and it goes into the end zone, a touchback would be at the 20-yard line or the kick could be returned.

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“There was a little fear of the unknown,” NFL Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay said. “I think the optics are definitely the most drastic (rule change) we’ve seen. The thing that gives us all the comfort is we have the tape, we’ve seen it. We can show you the plays and you can see how this can play out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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