The first thing anyone noticed when the Panthers signed Eric Reid last week was that they added a player with outspoken political beliefs, and a standing lawsuit against the NFL.
But after one day of practice, the Panthers realized something else — they found someone who is really good at playing football, as well.
Reid impressed his new coaches Monday with what he’s been able to pick up in a short time there, and he’s expected to start this week against the Giants.
“His movement skills were there,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. “He was covering tight ends. He was running with wide receivers. He gives you an opportunity to have what looks like a safety, but can play in the post. He can play the deep half, or he can play up in the box. With his ability to play in the box, and his skill set to run, you can play him as a big nickel. So it gives us position flexibility with him. He can play strong [safety] or free [safety] as well.
“Once he learns and understands the feel, I think you get another field general back there with he and Mike [Adams]. I think those two guys will be a pretty formidable group.”
It’s easy to lose sight of the football aspect of the transaction, considering Reid’s unapologetic activism for his community, his previous protests of police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem, and the collusion filing against the league that doubtless caused other teams to shy away.
But the reality is the Panthers just added another Pro Bowl-caliber player and a top-20 draft pick to their already good defense. When Thomas Davis returns from his suspension next week, they’ll have four first-round picks (Adams and all three linebackers, including Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson) and two second-rounders (cornerbacks James Bradberry and Donte Jackson) among their starting back seven. And when you throw in former first-rounders Julius Peppers, Dontari Poe and second-rounder Kawann Short up front, you realize they have a stable of top-shelf talent on that side of the ball.