SANTA CLARA — Safety Eric Reid's great rookie season did not have a great ending, thus adding motivation for this season's encore.
As much as the 49ers' fate got sealed when Colin Kaepernick's final pass got intercepted in the NFC Championship game, Reid hasn't excused his own flaws in that 23-17 loss at Seattle.
"For me, when I make a mistake on the field, it hurts," Reid said recently. "I usually don't forget it until the same situation comes up and I make it right.
"There are a couple plays in the Seattle game I wish I could have had back."
Such humility and accountability speak to Reid's character. He's an old soul in the NFL's fast-changing world, as fellow safety Antoine Bethea quickly learned.
"The way he's verbal, some young guys are not verbal until the third or fourth year when they're really, really comfortable," Bethea said. " 'E,' he's way beyond his years. He's doing a lot of things vets do."
Bethea left the Indianapolis Colts after eight seasons to join Reid as the 49ers' new safety tandem, doing so a day after Donte Whitner fled in free agency for his hometown Cleveland Browns.
"It's going to be a good working relationship between us two," Bethea said.
Reid stepped into last year's starting lineup from Game 1. He took over for Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson (Buccaneers) and never missed an ensuing start. Reid overcame two scary concussions, adjusted his hard-hitting technique and eventually reached the Pro Bowl as the 49ers' only willing participant.
While Jim Harbaugh says Reid "continues to grow," the coach has long preached that players' greatest strides come between Years 1 and 2. To Reid, that means refining "every aspect" of his game, and he said this week he's especially improved his field vision.
He hasn't turned a blind eye to last season's NFC Final. He delayed watching that film until well after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
"I watched in efforts to get better," Reid said. "I watched the plays I made mistakes on, plays I could have done better at, in order to play better this year."
One play: Doug Baldwin got behind Reid and Whitner for a 51-yard catch to set up the Seahawks' first points, a second-quarter field goal. Another play: Marshawn Lynch cut past Reid's last line of defense at the 30-yard line on a 40-yard, game-tying touchdown run.
Reid wishes he was in better position those plays. But there's one more play that still haunts him — and the 49ers — and it's one in which he executed his assignment.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Reid tackled Jermaine Kearse at the 1-yard line. Amid the rubble was NaVorro Bowman's left knee, which buckled upon Reid's impact with Kearse and resulted in surgery that will sideline Bowman into November.
"That play has been in my mind for a very long time," Reid said. "It's made his injury extremely personal for me. I look forward to him coming back, because I was in on that play. I pray for him."
Reid had his own scary moments last season. He left two games with concussions, but he recovered in time to start the following weeks. He adjusted his style, sized up his opponents better, and "didn't try to kill everybody like I usually try to do."
A concussion knocked Bethea out of last Sunday's exhibition loss to the Denver Broncos, and his status for Sunday's against the San Diego Chargers is in doubt while he undergoes post-concussion protocol.
Harbaugh, otherwise, likes what he's seen out of the Reid-Bethea tandem, noting: "It's coming along really good. Our safety play has been very good, has been in practice and in games."
Johnson, battling to unseat Blaine Gabbert for the No. 2 role, got cut after the 2012 training camp. Roman noted that although Johnson's opportunities have been limited in the exhibition games, the practices have served "as a good barometer."