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Chiefs safety Justin Reid plans to handle kickoffs this season, Harrison Butker focusing on field goals

Justin Reid has spent much of his NFL career trying to prevent receivers from catching the football or scoring touchdowns. But the Kansas City Chiefs safety says he’s now preparing to enter the next phase of his career — handling kickoffs.

The two-time Super Bowl champion defensive back says he is slated to become the Chiefs’ go-to for kickoffs in 2024. Kicker Harrison Butker has been the team’s primary option for kickoffs since he arrived in 2017.

However, the NFL is set to implement new rules that are expected to significantly alter kickoffs in the upcoming season.

The new rules will effectively discourage teams from kicking the ball into the opposite end zone for a touchback, which should also increase the frequency of returns.

Reid has seven career kickoff attempts as he has filled in for Butker at times when the kicker was out due to injury.

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Reid touted his tackling ability when discussing potential advantages he could have on kickoffs.

“The advantage for us is that if I’m doing the job — which is what we’re planning on doing — then I can fill that last gap, so it makes it a little bit easier and nobody needs to win two gaps,” Reid said on a recent episode of the podcast “Green Light with Chris Long.”

Brock Purdy vs Justin Reid

Butker will now be able to focus solely on field goals.

“We’re in a great place with it,” Reid said. “Although I know [Butker] can make some tackles, I think he’s excited to preserve himself, and we can use him where we really need him, which is those fourth-quarter situations to go nail a 60-yard field goal and win the game. It would be devastating to try and trot a guy out there who’s still nicked up from trying to make a tackle in the second quarter.”

Harrison Butker kicks a field goal

Per the new kickoff rules, 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 blockers lined up in the so-called “set up zone” between the 30- and 35-yard lines. At least seven of those players will be touching the 35-yard line. Two returners will be allowed inside their own 20-yard line.

Only the kicker and the 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.

Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub said the new rules put an emphasis on having a reliable tackler running from the 35-yard line.

“Justin can cover, he can kick, and he can go down there and make tackles,” Toub said. “He’s an extra guy they’re probably not accounting for. … A guy like Justin is a guy they have to worry about. They have to get him blocked, and they have to give up blocking someone else.”  

Reid added that kicking strategies will be “completely flipped” in 2024.

“The whole dynamic of hang time has completely flipped,” he said. “Normally, on kickoff, kickers are great at trying to have a four-second hang time to give guys time to get down the field, but now you’re trying to keep the ball as low as possible while still in play. You’re trying to get it to hit the ground because when the ball hits the ground, that’s now your hang time. Guys can take off at that point and however much time it takes the returner to pick up the ball, that’s them wasting time.”

Reid hopes his ability to kick off helps extend his NFL career.

“We might have added some time to my career. You might’ve extended my show a couple years,” Reid said. “When I’m done being the starting guy on safety, I can turn into that rotational third safety and also be a kickoff specialist.”

The new kickoff rules will undergo a trial run this upcoming season and will be subject to renewal for 2025.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.

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