SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)A series of concussions and years of losing in Washington led Jordan Reed to question whether he ever wanted to play football again.
After sitting out all last season following his seventh documented concussion, Reed did opt to resume his career when he signed with the San Francisco 49ers this summer.
”I definitely thought about hanging it up after last season,” Reed said. ”But it was when I saw the Super Bowl that really kind of ignited me again. I want to play in those big games. God blessed me to be here and a part of this great team and gave me the opportunity to be in that situation. That’s what’s driving me. I love the game of football. I still have the drive to keep playing.”
The 49ers are happy to have him as they spent the offseason looking for a receiving tight end to pair with versatile All-Pro George Kittle.
While Kittle caught 85 passes last season, the rest of the tight ends on the roster combined for only 17.
”The best thing that Jordan does is that he really gets up on guys quick and he’s very explosive when he’s in and out of his cuts,” Kittle said. ”He doesn’t really waste a lot of time moving and then he uses his speed as an advantage. He doesn’t waste time trying to hand fight with the guy. He usually just uses his feet and runs around them. Then when the guy does get too close, he’s really good with his feet, with his double move and getting two feet in the ground to adjust and react. He does that really well. But it’s really just his explosiveness that is way better than anyone else.”
The 30-year-old Reed had 329 catches for 3,371 yards and 24 TDs in 65 career games for Washington, but has ended up on the injured reserve list in four of his seven seasons.
But the biggest concern was the concussions. Reed had three in college at Florida and then four more in the pros. He was placed on injured reserve following one his rookie season in 2013, missed two games each with concussions in 2015 and ’16 and then had the one last summer on a hit from Atlanta’s Keanu Neal in an exhibition game that forced Reed to miss the entire season.
He said he met with specialists this offseason before deciding he was comfortable returning to play. The Niners took it slowly with him since signing him at the beginning of camp and have eased him into practice.
”The way they handled things here is very professional,” he said. ”They treat us like professional athletes and they just want the best for us. I really appreciate how they let me come along. Now I’m feeling great and I’m looking forward to the season.”
Reed has shown good flashes in practice as another target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. With several receivers hampered by injuries, he could play a bigger role in two tight end sets for San Francisco.
His transition to his new team has been eased by his familiarity with coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense having spent his rookie year in Washington with Shanahan as his play-caller.
The biggest difference might come from leaving one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchises to join a stable one coming off a trip to the Super Bowl last season.
”It’s the most fun I had playing football ever,” he said. ”Honestly, I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t play all season last year or what. But since I’ve been out there, I’ve just been having a blast and I’ve just been really grateful.”
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