Vic Fangio made it official by announcing that Eric Reid is the 49ers starting free safety. The defensive coordinator said first-round picks are not guaranteed starting minutes, but said that Reid earned his way.
"[Reid has] made some mistakes here and there but he has grown in the position," Fangio said of Reid. "It has allowed him to come through and he has tackled well in the games. He will continue to improve as the season goes on."
Reid becomes the first 1st-round draft pick to become a starting player in the Jim Harbaugh era. Aldon Smith was seen as a pass rushing specialist when he transitioned from defensive end to outside linebacker while A.J. Jenkins was inactive for the first 11 games of the 2012 season.
Fangio didn't even tell Reid that he would be the top safety until the media told him about it at his locker on Tuesday afternoon. While it wasn't a major surprise, Reid was humble in wanting to continue working on his game.
"I feel like a professional football player," Reid said. "I felt comfortable [after a few practices] and credit goes to training camp for the past couple of days."
While Reid played in the SEC conference in college while at LSU, he said the NFL level became tough when he initially entered training camp. He wasn't used to the top notch style of play among professionals.
"The first day I got here, it was a lot faster than college," Reid said. "Defenses were tougher. It took practice and repetition to get used to it."
Reid was impressive throughout the preseason in not allowing any balls thrown his way. He also displayed his ability to tackle in the open field and his coverage skills were solid.
Alongside Reid will be incumbent SS Donte Whitner in the secondary to be the last line of defense. The veteran safety has been impressed in training camp and the preseason with Reid's ability to learn the game quickly.
"We're not surprised [that Reid is starting," Whitner said. "Ever since day one, he has picked up the system really well. He has been a good student and he worked for the safety spot as a rookie."
Head coach Jim Harbaugh concurred with Whitner, saying the process has been good for Reid's development. He cited "good progression" with Reid in training camp and the perseason.
Reid said he was practicing with the first-team defense but didn't really think about starting. While it is a dream that is now a reality, the rookie safety wants to continue improving from what he has shown so far.
"Obviously [this] is good news for me," Reid said. "I just want to get better everyday and get better at something than yesterday."