John Lynch

49ers GM Lynch jokes he ‘might be in jail' if he played in NFL now

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John Lynch had a storied NFL career, though the 49ers general manager understands that his physical playing style would not be allowed in the modern game.

Speaking to the media Monday before the 2024 NFL Draft, the Pro Football Hall of Fame safety was asked how he evaluates the position and if he is looking for players who hit as hard as he did, with Lynch explaining that his physical style would not be legal now.

“I might be in jail with today's rules,” Lynch said jokingly. “So, you have to change, but people say oftentimes you couldn't play in today's league. Well, that goes for a lot of players and I think players that are good players, they adjust to the rules. That's how we played then. So, is physicality still part of that? Absolutely.”

Lynch went on to explain that the rule changes have forced defensive players to overhaul their tackling techniques, though players want to continue to play with physicality despite the rule changes.

“And who we are as a team, we're a physical team and so you stand out like a sore thumb when you're not physical and you don't play physical,” Lynch explained “Now there's a proper way and a proper technique that guys have gotten a lot better now you're seeing this hip drop. I don’t know if that's physical. I think it's actually because they've taken so many different elements.

“If you can't hit them from the front, people are going to come up with different ways. They started selling and teaching rugby-style technique. Well, a lot of that rugby-style technique that the League was trumpeting has led to this technique called the hip drop. It’s a real thing. It's happening. And so, I understand it.”

Lynch then brought up that there are plenty of players who struggle with all of the recent changes, but he believes that the best still find a way to stay within the rules.

“There are some players that play extremely physically and are big players and it's been a challenge for them in today's football,” Lynch told reporters. “So, you have to factor that in. But I think the best players find ways to play within the rules and still make their presence known on that field and that's part of being a good player.”

To reduce the number of traumatic injuries in recent years, the NFL has changed how defensive players are allowed to tackle, with the league banning the hip-drop tackle this offseason among other changes.

Tackling that involves leading with the head or crown of the helmet along with any tackling below the knees is generally banned in the modern NFL.

Lynch played 15 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos from 1993-2007, becoming known for his hard-hitting and physical style of play. He was a key component to the Buccaneers' bruising defenses during his time with the team, which included a dominant Super Bowl XXXVII win over the Oakland Raiders.

Lynch and the 49ers face an offseason of critical decisions and contract extensions for some key players, with the franchise looking to bolster its defensive and offensive lines in the draft and continue its reign atop the NFC standings.

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