SANTA CLARA -- In the three previous seasons, four safeties have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft. All four started all 16 games for their teams.
The 49ers did not trade up 13 spots in the first round for LSU safety Eric Reid to have him stand on the sideline.
Reid was among the group of rookies and selected veterans who put the pads on for the first time Monday after reporting to training camp on Friday. Reid said he enjoys the contact -- and he even had an abrasion on the bridge of his nose as a Day 1 souvenir.
He is using the head start to get up to speed for when the veterans hit the practice field on Thursday and the real competition begins.
"Just getting adjusted to the speed," Reid said. "We're still out here with the rookies, and they're fast guys. But when the veterans get out here, they're always five steps ahead. They know what's happening before it happens. I just got to get up to their pace.
"That's why I'm glad we have these few weeks before the preseason starts and hopefully I can get adjusted to the speed."
The 49ers open the exhibition season on Thursday, Aug. 8, against the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park.
The only starting job on defense that appears unclaimed is at free safety. All-Pro Dashon Goldson signed a five-year, $41.25 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers signed veteran Craig Dahl, a 16-game starter for the St. Louis Rams last season, before selection Reid.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said Reid was the top-rated safety on the 49ers' draft board. The New Orleans Saints selected safety Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th pick. The 49ers traded up for Reid at No. 18.
Since 2010 all safeties selected in the first round have started every game -- a list comprised of Eric Berry (Kansas City, 2010), Earl Thomas (Seattle, 2010), Mark Barron (Tampa Bay, 2012) and Harrison Smith (Minnesota, 2012).
Goldson leaves big pads to fill in the 49ers' secondary with his missile-like attacking of the line of scrimmage on run plays to his play-making ability with the ball in the air. The 49ers might expect Reid, who possesses similar attributes to Goldson, to win the starting job. But it's a position Reid knows he will have to earn.
"I'm confident in myself," Reid said. "I'll leave that decision to the coach. I'm just going to go out to practice every day and try to get better. Work on myself and try to make the team better. When the season gets here, we'll see who they put on the field."