When Eric Reid was playing at LSU, he often was characterized as an “explosive hitter.”
The 6-foot-1, 213-pound safety held his own in the rugged Southeastern Conference, and scouts projected he’d be a physical player against the run in the NFL.
“He might be the (most) explosive hitter from the safety position in the 2013 draft, closing with the speed and physicality of a linebacker rather than a defensive back,” read the CBS scouting report on Reid before the April draft.
Now, with rookies and some veterans already in pads and practicing at the 49ers training camp in Santa Clara, Reid is showing he likes to hit.
In the team’s first practice in pads Monday – the full squad won’t practice together until Thursday – Reid reportedly suffered a small cut across the bridge of his nose when his facemask slipped down during a hitting drill that opened up an old cut that had been suffered in high school.
Reid, however, shook off the injury, telling Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group: “It doesn’t bother me.”
What he was more eager to talk about is the start of practice and the prospect of winning a starting safety slot opposite Donte Whitner.
He told Inman that getting back to hitting in pads is his “favorite thing about football.”
He hadn’t been in pads since his last college game, on Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
And, he’s confident about his abilities and winning a spot in the opening-day lineup against the Packers.
“I’m just going to go out to practice every day and try to get better, and try to make the team better,” he told Inman. “When the season gets here, we’ll see who they put on the field.”
There has been no question about Reid’s skills as a hitter, tackler or run-stopper. Some NFL analysts, however, have doubts about his pass-coverage skills, particularly Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who has said he has “stiffness in coverage.”
Added Cosell: “He’s pretty fluid once he gets running in a straight line, but I’m not sure about the change of direction.”
Reid is competing with veteran Craig Dahl for the job formerly held by Dashon Goldson, who left in free agency. Others in the mix are C.J. Spillman and Darcel McBath.
Reid, the 18th pick of the first round, already has signed with the 49ers – who have all 11 draft picks under contract.
Niners veterans are schedule to report Wednesday, with the first full-squad practice on Thursday.