KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Don’t tell D.J. Reed and his San Francisco 49ers teammates NFL preseason games are meaningless.
The Niners, who defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-17 at Arrowhead Stadium Saturday night to improve to 3-0 in exhibition play, have a winning vibe after enduring a dismal 4-12 regular season in 2018.
Though the preseason is unofficial, it’s a time where roster spots are won as teams trim down to the mandatory 53-player limit for the opening weekend of the regular season.
“It felt good, man. We’re 3-0 in the preseason,” said Reed, formerly of Kansas State and a defensive back/punt returner for the Niners. “In our opinion, the preseason counts. It’s just like the mind-set that we want to have.
“We want to win everything, so to be 3-0 in the preseason, that’s very good leading into the final preseason game and the regular season.”
Reed was elated when Chiefs wide receiver and former K-State teammate Byron Pringle scored his first NFL touchdown on a jet sweep, capping a 97-yard scoring drive engineered by quarterback Kyle Shurmur. San Francisco answered by scoring the final two touchdowns of the game.
“Everything that Byron has been through, for him to be in this situation, he’s like the definition of perseverance,” Reed said of Pringle. “It’s just crazy. I’m so proud of him.
“Just his story, the person he is, how hard he works, his passion for the game … it’s all coming into fruition. I was seeing during OTAs that Byron and Patrick Mahomes had a good connection and were balling out. He’s a tremendous football player.”
Pringle stood in the Chiefs’ locker room with his game ball in tow, answering questions from the media while basking in the aftermath of his first NFL touchdown, a 6-yard scoring run.
“This is going to my son,” Pringle said of the game ball. “I just attack every day and just keep grinding.”
Last season, as an undrafted rookie free agent, Pringle had a strong showing in the fourth preseason game, but went down with an injury after registering a team-best 122 yards on four catches during a 33-21 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Pringle suffered a pulled hamstring after making a 40-yard reception and had to leave the field. Pringle also had a hernia, so he immediately was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
“I didn’t let that bring me down,” Pringle said. “I had the opportunity to stay around and be with the organization. I was able to take advantage of each meeting, each weight-room session, each rehab session. It was a good thing. I was able to learn the offense.”
Pringle finds himself in a similar battle this season at the crowded wide receiver position this season. Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, DeMarcus Robinson and rookie Mecole Hardman are atop the list. With Marcus Kemp out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, Pringle still finds himself battling a number of players for a roster spot, including De’Anthony Thomas, who recently signed last week during training camp, and undrafted free agent Cody Thompson.
Reed totaled 30 tackles and one forced fumble during his rookie season with the 49ers. He logged most of his playing time in the second half against the Chiefs last Saturday, making one tackle.
“I thought I did pretty good with the opportunities given to me,” said Reed, who lined up at free safety in the second half. “I had a pass breakup, and a couple of my teammates had pass breakups.”
Reed was limited in the punt-return game.
“I thought I did all right,” he said. “I was thrown out there for a couple plays and that made me happy because that’s a big part of my game.”
Reed starred in Kansas State’s secondary in 2016 and 2017, where he was named as the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year during his first season. He was selected by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft.
Niners linebacker Elijah Lee left Saturday’s game with the Chiefs with a leg injury and didn’t return.
Just two weeks earlier, Lee missed time because of a broken thumb.
Lee, who had 51 solo tackles and one sack in 2018, was a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
Lee played linebacker at K-State from 2013 to 2016, a three-year letter winner who became the first K-State linebacker since Arthur Brown to earn consecutive All-Big 12 honors. He was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2015, and a first-team pick in 2016 as a junior after leading the Cats with 110 tackles.
He left for the NFL after his junior season.