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Eric Reid, Lotulelei Among Top Defensive Rookies

Posted Nov 8, 2013

The 49ers safety and a Carolina Panthers defensive tackle are among the NFC's best first-year players.

Eric Reid is too busy making tackles to worry about accolades.

But the former is starting to lead to the latter.

Halfway through his first NFL season, the 49ers safety has been occupied learning on the job since Opening Day and, really, training camp.

“I barely have time to text my family,” Reid said.

So Reid hasn’t paid as much attention to a rookie starter on the Carolina Panthers as, say, San Francisco’s offensive players and coaching staff.

Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, picked four spots before Reid at 14th overall in the NFL Draft, has been a force since entering the league. The draftees' teams meet on Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park.

“A lot of people thought he was the No. 1 pick,” fullback Bruce Miller said earlier this week, “and I can see why.”

Added offensive coordinator Greg Roman: “He reminds me a little bit of (Baltimore Ravens nose tackle) Haloti Ngata in a sense that he’s big, strong, but he’s explosive and he can penetrate and get off blocks.”

For his part, Reid hasn’t had time to keep up with – or watch film of – Lotulelei, let alone other members of their 2013 Draft Class.

“When I seem him on the field, we’ll talk before the game,” Reid said, “and I’ll wish him the best.”

Like Lotulelei, Reid is among the best rookie defenders in his conference. With three interceptions, a fumble recovery and 47 tackles, the numbers back him.

Stats don't do Lotulelei justice. He's made 24 tackles, including a sack, across eight starts, but he's a Ngata-like, clog-the-middle player who frees up his teamates to track ball carriers.

READ: No. 1 Rush Attack vs. No. 2 Rush 'D'

Whether either is included in the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year award conversation seems of lesser concern.

“I take it as a compliment,” Reid said. “It really doesn’t mean much at all to me to be honest.”

The praise of his coach probably goes much further.

“He’s been outstanding,” Jim Harbaugh said Friday of his veteran-like ‘rook’. “He’s better than the player that he was when he got here, but he’s not the player he's going to be either.”

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