Hey, Donte Whitner. Eric Reid is looking for you.
No, the 49ers' first-round draft pick isn't gunning for the veteran's job. Instead he wants to pick Whitner's brain. Whitner, after all, has played seven years in the league and calls the plays for the 49ers' secondary. "I'm going to be a sponge, just learn as much as I can from him," Reid said at his introductory press conference today. "He's a vet, a guy that's going to show me how to get stuff done."
After trading up 13 spots, Reid is expected to take over the starting role opposite Whitner at some point this season. In fact, every safety taken in the first round in the last three years - Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, Mark Barron and Harrison Smith - started all 16 games their rookie seasons.
Safety, however, is more nuanced and demands more study than perhaps any other spot on defense. And Reid seems to recognize that a starting role won't be handed to him. The 49ers also signed Craig Dahl to a modest, three-year deal, and he is expected to be a placeholder for Reid while he learns the position.
"I just want to come in and get to work," Reid said. "A starting role has to be earned, and I know that very much so. I don't expect to come in and start right away. Like I said, I want to be a sponge and come in and impact my team in a positive way. Just do my job, because I know this defense is incredible, and it would be an honor to get on the field with those guys."
Reunited? - Asked about the prospect of his new team drafting former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, Reid was effusive in his praise. The 49ers and Patriots have been among Mathieu's most ardent suitors, and the "Honey Badger" may be drafted at some point today.
"He's a great football player," Reid said. "And we all know that he made a mistake and that if he had a second opportunity he's make a different decision. But we're all human beings, we all make mistakes. I made a mistake that hasn't put me in the amount of trouble that he's been in. I think that he's learned from it. He's paid the awesome-est price as far as being a football player, and that's missing the season. He was on pace to do a lot of great things for himself at LSU, and he had to sit out. So I definitely think that impacted him and that he's going to move on and be a good player in this league."
What's it like to play safety with him at cornerback?
"It's awesome," Reid said. "I had a front-row seat to see some of the things that he does. You've all seen the highlights - at West Virginia, he's stripping the ball, batting the ball and then taking it. People just don't do that."
- Matt Barrows