SANTA CLARA -- Rookie safety Eric Reid has won the starting spot at free safety for the 49ers' Sept. 8 season opener, and he did so by following a gradual path plotted out since his first-round selection.
Reid, drafted 18th overall, made "steady progress" over the past four months to have that starting role bestowed upon him Tuesday by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
"I feel like a professional football player now," Reid said. "The first day I got here, it was a lot faster than college and the defense was tougher, but it just takes practice and repetition."
Reid, along with most starters, likely won't play in Thursday's exhibition finale at San Diego. Fangio noted how Reid already "has had a lot of reps and gotten a lot of work in."
Reid will be the 49ers' first rookie to start on defense since Taylor Mays in 2010. The 49ers can only hope Reid follows the more decorated route taken by linebacker Patrick Willis, who's been a Pro Bowler since he started in his 2007 rookie season.
"He's had his potholes with some mistakes here and there. Overall he's just been steady," Fangio said of Reid.
Reid beat out Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman and Trenton Robinson for a job vacated by Dashon Goldson's exit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via free agency.
"He's tackled well in the games, which is important for us," Fangio added. "We lost a really good tackler last year in Goldson. (Reid has) done a good job in tackling, and we think he'll continue to improve."
Added coach Jim Harbaugh: "He's shown he's picked up the system fast and played well in games. It's been a nice progression by him."
Reid said he expects to soon start studying videotape of the 49ers' Week 1 opponent, the Green Bay Packers. Fellow starting safety Donte Whitner praised Reid as a quick study who has "really good ball skills," adding that Reid's 6-foot-1, 213-pound frame can pack a wallop, too. Nnamdi Asomugha "looks" as though he's seized the No. 3 cornerback role, although he's now coping with an undisclosed, minor injury, Fangio said. Tramaine Brock got the first shot at that role after Chris Culliver's season-ending knee injury in training camp, and Fangio said Brock has been hindered the past two exhibitions by a minor injury.
Asomugha lined up at left cornerback Sunday night for the first time in the exhibition season. "He told us from the start that, left or right, it's not a big issue for him, and it proved to be true," Fangio said. Ian Williams also has locked down a starting spot, replacing Isaac Sopoaga (Philadelphia Eagles) at nose tackle ahead of Glenn Dorsey, Fangio said. Williams has never started in his two-year career and has appeared in only four games. Fangio opened his media session by lauding Parys Haralson's 49ers tenure, which ended with Monday's trade to New Orleans for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2014. Offseason acquisition Dan Skuta is a "very similar player" to Haralson, said Fangio, who added that Skuta likely would platoon as the third outside linebacker. Corey Lemonier and Cam Johnson are the other backups. The 49ers' brigade of injured players helped them reach Tuesday's 75-man roster limit. Wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham stayed on the physically-unable-to-prepare list while five others remained on the non-football-injury list: running back Marcus Lattimore, cornerback Eric Wright, offensive tackle Luke Marquardt and defensive tackles Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial. Defensive tackles Lawrence Okoye and Lamar Divens were waived injured, allowing the 49ers to put them on injured reserve if they clear waivers. Okoye, the London native who's new to football, is on crutches because of a knee sprain from Sunday's game. "Relax people -- I'm going on IR," Okoye tweeted. Divens' injury is unknown. Culliver went on injured reserve, as expected after his season-ending knee injury Aug. 1. Fangio doesn't expect the NFL to suspend linebacker Ahmad Brooks for Week 1 because of an alleged altercation in June with Divens. Brooks echoed Fangio's stance and declined further comment on the incident. Willis remains on schedule to play Week 1, "even if he has to play with a contraption" on his wrist, Fangio said. Willis practiced in a noncontact jersey, along with Asomugha (undisclosed), Johnson (shoulder) and running back Jewel Hampton (undisclosed). Linebacker Joe Holland was re-signed a day after getting cut. Fangio launched a campaign to get Tom Rathman's name included among the 49ers' Ring of Honor at Candlestick Park (and presumably Levi's Stadium). "He's had a tremendous impact on the organization for over 20 years," said Fangio, who coached against Rathman when he played in the 49ers backfield from 1986-93. Rathman is in his 11th season coaching the 49ers' running backs.
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