Eric Reid on Thursday was far more bullish on a move to inside linebacker than he was after Sunday’s game, although he wondered aloud what that means for him in 2018.
Reid, who has played safety to this point in his career, is due to become a free agent in March. He said he’s gotten no assurance from the 49ers that he’s in next year’s plans either at linebacker or safety.
“They said they can not tell me if I’m in their long-term plans,” Reid said. “So I guess I’ll just take it week by week.”
Reid noted that other safeties have transitioned to linebacker in the NFL, including the Rams’ Mark Barron and the Cardinals’ Deone Bucannon. The Jaguars’ Telvin Smith, who is listed at just 215 pounds, has excelled at linebacker in a defensive system that’s similar to the 49ers’, and on Wednesday he agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $50 million.
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“What they’ve mastered is the ability to get on and off blocks within a short area and utilize their quickness and utilize their speed,” said 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who coached Smith last year in Jacksonville. “… Looking at Eric, he’s very fast, very quick – he’s got great short-area quickness – and he is very physical.”
Reid said he’s warming to the idea of playing linebacker because he sees it as a challenge and because it gives him a chance at a starting role. The strong-safety spot he played before suffering a knee injury in Week 2 has since been taken over by Jaquiski Tartt.
Reid played weak-side inside linebacker in nickel situations Sunday against the Cowboys. Saleh said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Reid moved into a full-time role there, which would supplant Ray-Ray Armstrong.
Saleh noted that the strong safety role that Reid played earlier this year already placed him close to the line of scrimmage.
“Eric Reid being the very physical player that he is and being one of our smartest players, we as an organization felt that it wouldn’t be an issue for him to move a couple of yards closer to where he was,” he said.
Reid, who said he weighs around 220 pounds, said he’ll continue to play linebacker in nickel situations Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and that his hope is that he eventually works into the rotation in base packages as well.
Asked if he planned to add more weight for his new role, Reid said he didn’t know.
“That’s a question for the future,” he said. “I’m just doing what I can right now for this season. I’ll address that in the offseason.”
Injuries – Starting offensive linemen Trent Brown (concussion) and Brandon Fusco (biceps) missed practice for the second straight day, increasing the chance that Garry Gilliam and Zane Beadles will play in Philadelphia on Sunday.