Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Saleh explains Eric Reid’s transition to linebacker

Oct 26, 2017 at 1:47 PM--

Safety Eric Reid has been working with the linebackers this week during practice and in the meeting rooms. After being eased back into action against the Washington Redskins following a PCL injury last month, Reid played a lot of snaps at inside linebacker against the Dallas Cowboys while rotating with Ray-Ray Armstrong. Jaquiski Tartt, who had been filling in for Reid, held on to the starting job at strong safety.

"They told me it was the best move for the team," Reid said following Sunday's loss. "So I'm just embracing my new role and trying my hardest to make an impact."

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh met with the media on Thursday and spent extensive time explaining the team's decision to play Reid at linebacker. Saleh went as far as to say he wouldn't be surprised if Reid becomes a full-time starting linebacker.

"The evolution of the running back and tight end has far outpaced the evolution of the linebacker," Saleh explained. "It's not even close and what Eric Reid has done as a safety is unquestioned. He is one of the better safeties in all of football. Tartt is a very good safety. Jimmie Ward is a very good safety. So to utilize their athleticism, their speed, Eric Reid being a very physical player that he is and being one of our smartest players, we, as an organization, felt it wouldn't be an issue for him to move a couple of yards closer than he already was.

"And we thought he did a good job and in practice, he's shown up again and there's no doubt in my mind, if the league thinks he was a really good safety, wait until you see his versatility and what he's able to do as a linebacker. He's going to be unbelievable."

Saleh further explained that Reid, who is already fast and physical, just needs to learn how to create space in a smaller area to effectively transition to playing linebacker.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he goes and takes it," Saleh said when asked if Reid could potentially become a starting linebacker.

"Eric is a very versatile, very smart, and very committed individual," Saleh continued. "You give him a challenge, he's going to kill it. For a guy like Eric, I don't think [the transition] is a big deal because of the person he is and the challenges that he's going to take on. He is a team guy so he's embraced it. He's excited about it. From all our conversations and just the amount of work that he's put into it over these two weeks to get himself to where he is today, which I think it's just going to keep going up, it just speaks volumes for him."

Reid is in the final year of his contract while Tartt is signed through 2018. Following Saleh's press conference, Reid was in the 49ers locker room and told reporters the team has not committed to him beyond this season. There have been no discussions surrounding a long-term contract.

"This is my contract year, so when they broke the news to me, I wondered what the reasoning was to make the move," Reid told reporters. "They were open and honest with me and told me they really believe it's best for the team and I can really excel at the position."

Unlike the game against Dallas, Reid said he is more optimistic about his role at linebacker for this weekend's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Should Reid not return to the 49ers next season, he is hopeful there is enough film at safety to make him a desirable free agent.

"And now, I'll get some film at linebacker, as well," said Reid.

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