SANTA CLARA — When you’re a rookie in the NFL, you are constantly proving your worth to your franchise, your coaches and your teammates. And 22-year-old defensive back D.J. Reed believes he has even more to prove to himself. 

The 49ers have only two wins as they head into their Week 12 matchup with the Buccaneers. Reed says winning games remains the team's main goal. He said all of the expected phrases: needing to focus on preparation, taking every day seriously, both in the film room and on the field. He spoke about getting back to basics and using every rep. 

What was unexpected, was his response to his personal performance up until the bye week. 

“I feel like I have to play better,” Reed said, “on special teams, on defense, on any chance I get. I got to just play better. I feel like I’m not playing anywhere near the capabilities that I know I can play. So I got to just get back to the basics.”

Reed had the extra challenge of trying to learn several defensive positions. He has been seen at corner, nickel and free safety. Reed had an idea that this exact scenario would be possible when he arrived in Santa Clara. 

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“When I got drafted they told me that they had seen me playing free safety and nickel,” Reed said. “I already knew coming in that I was going to have to learn multiple positions. I feel like I know that now. Still a lot to learn but I’m doing my best so I’m going to just keep learning all the defensive positions so I can be valuable.


“Learning more positions, you have to study more, you got to think more. Obviously, it doesn’t make you play as fast as when you just play one position.” 

Reed’s fellow members of the secondary were very complimentary of his versatility but he sees it differently. He played nickel and corner in college, but this season was the first time he had played safety since high school. 

“It’s rough bumps,” Reed said. “I’m going through that right now. I’m going to get through it though.” 

The challenge of the NFL is not the biggest one Reed has faced in his life having gone the junior college route to get to the league. 

“I’ve been through so much in my life,” Reed said. “This is football. Football has taught me a lot. Probably more than school. It’s taught me you’ve got to keep going when things aren’t going good. You can’t fold, you can’t quit. You have to just keep going. That’s just how I’m built. So I keep going.” 

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Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman not only agreed that Reed is his toughest critic, but complimented his attitude about his situation. 

“He’s done great,” Sherman said. “Any time you’re a rookie and you get kind of put back and forth like that, it’s difficult I think he’s given it his best shot and taken it all in stride.

“He is really tough on himself, but that’s what great players try to do. You try to be hard on yourself and put good results out.” 

As Reed matures and develops as a player, it’s likely that his motives won’t change. The bar will remain high. 

“I just want to prove to myself," Reed said. "Because right now I’m not playing to my standards. So I don’t really have anything to prove to anybody out there. Really, just myself. Hopefully, I can get things rolling to help us win.”