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Jaquiski Tartt to Rejoin 49ers Starting Defense

It's starting to feel like the holiday season with Thanksgiving three days away, but there are no greeting cards coming to the San Francisco 49ers from other NFL coaching staffs.

Eric Reid (biceps) is the latest key defender to be injured in 2016 for the 49ers. Reid joined NaVorro Bowman, Ian Williams, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Arik Armstead as key defenders who were placed on Injured Reserve.

"We're not getting a lot of get-well-soon cards from the rest of the teams in the NFL, but that's what this league's about," defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said on Tuesday after Reid posted pictures on social media following a successful surgery.

The fourth-year defensive back injured his right arm late in a Week 11 home loss to the New England Patriots. O'Neil tabbed second-year safety Jaquiski Tartt as the new starting safety in San Francisco's defensive lineup.

"Tartt's going to obviously step into the safety role, but other guys in other positions are going to have to step up and do some of the jobs that (Reid) was able to do for us in passing downs," the coordinator said.

Tartt said he's game for the opportunity. O'Neil will likely call on third-year pro Dontae Johnson to assume Tartt's previous role.

"I just had to be ready for when my number was called," Tartt said.

The 6-foot-1, 221-pound defensive back is comfortable playing both safety spots in San Francisco's interchangeable system.

Tartt recorded 65 tackles while making eight starts for the 49ers as a strong safety in 2015. He replaced Antoine Bethea when the veteran defender was lost for the season midway through the year.

Tartt said the on-field experience helped him for this year's upcoming playing time.

"Last year I had the opportunity to play with E-Reid, and I got to pick his brain a little bit," said Tartt, who has 24 tackles in his sophomore campaign. "This year, I have A.B., so I get to pick his brain."

Prior to Reid's injury, Tartt was involved in O'Neil's scheme as a third safety. He's been on the field for nine of 10 games (missing one to injury). Tartt enjoyed a strong performance in Week 11 as a perimeter defender against Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett.

"I feel like I've grown a lot in man coverage and just being able to lock down my defense on whoever I'm assigned to," Tartt said.

O'Neil praised the young safety for his role in limiting Bennett to one reception in Week 11.

"He's obviously a physical guy that you can get down in the run game and make plays in the box," the coordinator added. "He's had some really nice blitzes for us this year when we've moved him down into what we call our 'X position,' which is a position where you blitz and that was some of that three safety package stuff we were able to do earlier in the year. "He's got a great NFL skillset."

Tartt has used his 2016 role to refine his all-around ability. He pointed to his on-field awareness and ability to diagnose and react to plays faster.

Not looking at himself as a backup has also helped Tartt.

"I always had that mindset of preparing as if I'm starting," he said. "I've been doing that since Week 1, so it's no big deal."

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