SANTA CLARA -- Safety Eric Reid made good use of his time during his one-day visit to Santa Clara last month after the 49ers selected him in the first round of the draft.
Reid got a head start on learning the 49ers' defense. He even crammed in a few minutes studying the playbook on the car ride back to the airport before returning home to Louisiana.
So when the defensive players at the 49ers rookie minicamp were presented with some of the team's base concepts, Reid was not hearing a totally foreign language.
"I was ahead of the curve a little bit," Reid said. "The calls were familiar, the checks were familiar, so it's just about doing it with speed. When something happens, you got to right now. You can't sit and think about it. That's the biggest transition."
Of the 45 players attending this weekend's rookie camp, Reid is the only one with a legitimate chance at winning a starting job. In fact, the 49ers are likely depending on him after trading up 13 spots in the first round to select him. The 49ers have a hole to fill at free safety with the free-agent departure of All-Pro Dashon Goldson. Reid's stiffest competition is expected to come from free agent pickup Craig Dahl, who started all 16 games for the St. Louis Rams last season.
The 49ers return Pro Bowl strong safety Donte Whitner, a highly respected seven-year veteran who is expected to be a mentor for Reid. The two met briefly in the weight room Friday for the first time.
"He was working out, so I didn't want to bother him too much," Reid said. "I introduced myself (after the first practice), and he asked me, 'How did it go?' He was looking forward to getting to work.
"I haven't seen much (of Whitner) on film but I know his reputation. He's a guy I need to be around, who I will be around, and just absorb as much knowledge as I can from him."