SANTA CLARA — As safety Eric Reid exited the tunnel to take the field for his NFL debut, he received some words of wisdom from All-Pro defensive mate Justin Smith: “Stay back.”
As in, Smith and the defensive line would do their part up front and Reid only needed to stick to his duties in the secondary. All worked well for both groups in the 49ers’ season-opening victory against Green Bay.
Reid’s first game as a rookie for San Francisco came against one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers. Reid shined, making an interception and six tackles.
The next task is equally tough for the first-rounder: Defending another dynamic quarterback, Russell Wilson, in the hostile, ear-piercing confines of CenturyLink Field, where Seattle’s raucous fans will try to set a Guinness World Record for stadium noise Sunday night.
The 21-year-old Reid says bring it on. He lives for game day on the big stage, and hardly considers the pressure but rather sees this as an opportunity to get better and not make the same mistake twice.
“I always would like to say that I step up. That’s something I always try to do, no matter what the game is,” Reid said. “I’m used to the quote unquote pressure. I think pressure’s what you make of it. To me, I just try to make it like any other game. It’s just a football game, something I’ve been doing for a long time.”
Coach Jim Harbaugh has been stressing improved tackling this week as his team prepares for an NFC West showdown with the Niners’ biggest rival, but he was pleased with Reid’s open-field tackling against the Packers — though Reid said he missed a couple of plays he would like back.
On Sunday, Harbaugh happened to follow Reid and Smith into the stadium and hear their exchange.
And the coach was pleased with Reid’s adjustments on game day.
“He’s been really diligent, on it from the time he got here. It’s just the way he’s wired,” Harbaugh said. “He’s not an error repeater. He takes great pride in his own personal performance and he’s really smart. Ever since he’s been here he’s picked things up extremely fast, and it’s early on.”
Reid, drafted with the 18th overall pick out of LSU, identified a couple of missed tackles he would have liked to add to his total. On Sunday, stopping Marshawn Lynch in the open field will be a daunting task.
“I don’t recall a mental mistake but I do recall two missed tackles,” Reid said. “The anxiety of being in my first real NFL game kind of (subsided) after the first half, and as the game went on I got more comfortable.”
The Seahawks don’t envision much of a drop off at free safety, where Reid replaced departed two-time Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson.
“He did really well in the opener and he had a good preseason,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s an extraordinarily talented guy and I don’t think there’s any surprise that he’s playing well. He was highly regarded by everybody in the draft, I would think everybody loved the guy. He’s got all the right tools and it’s cool for him to have some opportunities to make some big plays so he can debut well, and he certainly did.”
Hitting the road for the first time will present new challenges.
Reid played in some loud stadiums — most notably his own at LSU — and in plenty of meaningful games in the Southeastern Conference. He realizes the Seahawks-49ers rivalry will be another level.
“The guys tell me it’s like a playoff game,” Reid said. “I’m expecting a physical game. That’s something I’m used to. I come from a place where we had a lot of physical games.”
Reid quickly gained the confidence of his teammates, on both sides of the ball.
“I feel if you’re a football player, you’re going to show it. It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re a rookie,” running back Frank Gore said. “He works hard, he’s quiet, listens. It seems like it’s serious for him. You don’t want to be the guy (who doesn’t get it done) when you come into an organization where Dashon Goldson was. You want the people to look at you and it ain’t no letdown, ain’t no slack. He should try to be better (than Dashon).”
Notes: WR Michael Crabtree, recovering from a torn right Achilles tendon that required surgery in May, is encouraged by his recovery. He isn’t expected to return until at least November. “I’m good, getting better,” he said. “Keep it going.”... Justin Smith missed the game at Seattle last Dec. 23 because of a partially torn left triceps. It ended his consecutive starts streak at 185 games. He had surgery after the Super Bowl. “I just try not to think about it,” he said. “If something happens again, something happens again.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org