SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Back in April, Eric Reid held his breath for a moment waiting to hear whether the New Orleans Saints would draft him out of LSU.
They passed, and the standout safety wound up out West with the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers instead. It has been a great fit so far.
"Upset? Well, that's just the way it is," Reid said. "I did hold my breath for a little bit, I won't lie, because that's my hometown state. After that happened I was just looking for the next team to come around, and like I've always said, I couldn't be more thankful for the 49ers picking me."
Reid immediately emerged as a hard-hitting, playmaking rookie and has a team-best five takeaways for the 49ers (6-3). He sure hopes a second concussion won't sideline him for Sunday's game at the Superdome against Drew Brees and the Saints (7-2).
"I've been looking forward to this. That's my home state," Reid said. "I've been watching Drew Brees and those guys for a long time. This is part of my dream, to get to play in that stadium against Drew Brees and the Saints. Hopefully, I can do my part and get a win."
Reid received 58 tickets for the game to accommodate all of the family and friends who want to see him play — a number larger than he expected but doable because many of his 49ers teammates didn't ask for their usual ticket allotment.
Reid can't imagine not playing in his Louisiana homecoming.
Yet it won't be entirely his call. The Baton Rouge native, who turns 22 next month, sustained his second concussion of the season in last week's 10-9 loss to Carolina when he went head first to tackle 245-pound Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert.
"It is a little surprising. I've never had a concussion before," Reid said. "To get two in one season is a little bit different for me. That being said, this is the NFL. Guys are a little bit stronger, a little bit bigger than what I'm used to playing. I might have to adjust the way I'm playing a little bit."
Coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will encourage Reid to make some slight changes to avoid further harm.
While Reid wants to remain his aggressive self and realizes how hard it is to change a playing style when decisions are made in split seconds, he will work to use more of his body and consider the size of the offensive player coming at him.
Both Reid and tight end Vernon Davis are expected to go through a contact practice Friday and be re-evaluated before flying to the Big Easy, where the 49ers lost 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl nine months ago.
Brees, for one, knows what a game-changer Reid can be if he is on the field Sunday.
"He's been very impressive. He's a big, physical guy who can really run. You can see him getting better each week," Brees said. "He's found his role within that defense and has played it very well."
San Francisco traded up in April's draft to select Reid with the 18th overall pick, while the Saints went with safety Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas at No. 15.
Not that the Saints didn't think highly of Reid and his ability to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
He has three interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries — and only Tennessee's Alterraun Verner also has at least three picks and two recovered fumbles.
"We studied him very closely being that he played an hour up the road," Saints coach Sean Payton said of Reid. "It's someone we thought very highly of, had high grades on. You only get one pick. He's someone who has transitioned very quickly into a very good safety. That's not a surprise."
While Reid only attended one Saints game growing up — he doesn't recall who they played — he was thrilled when New Orleans won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season.
"I remember watching the Super Bowl at my house when they won it," Reid said. "They have a very powerful offense, a very explosive offense. It's kind of surreal for me because now my job is to stop them after being a fan of them for so long. I'm aware of the players that they have. They're not new to me."
Notes: WR Michael Crabtree's absence from practice Wednesday wasn't considered a setback in his return from right Achilles tendon surgery but rather a recovery day. He must be activated by Nov. 26. ... Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio expects pass-rushing LB Aldon Smith to play more snaps against the Saints to get pressure on Brees. He only got a dozen plays in his return following a five-game absence during which he underwent treatment for substance abuse.
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