Eric Reid started for the Panthers on Sunday, 10 days after he was signed by the team and 280 days since he last played in an NFL game. But the former 49ers first-round pick who couldn't find work until late September despite being one of the league's best young safeties, had mixed emotions about returning to the field.
"It's bittersweet," he said, via The Undefeated's Jason Reid. "I won the game, but Colin is at home with my kids. He should be playing."
Reid, a 2013 first-round pick, knelt alongside Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 season to protest social injustice and police brutality, and did the same in 2017. He went unsigned this offseason and was passed over by several teams -- including the Titans and Falcons -- in need of help at safety before the Panthers signed him. In May, Reid filed a collusion grievance against the NFL, and a week later the NFL Players Association filed a non-injury grievance on his behalf.
Last week, in his first press conference with his new team, Reid wore an #IMWITHKAP t-shirt. Reid said he continues to work with Kaepernick, and feels as strong as ever on the reasons he began kneeling during the anthem: protesting social injustice. And on Sunday, during the national anthem ahead of the Panthers' game against the Giants, .
"Everybody in this [locker room], everybody who watches this game [and] everybody in this country knows what we're talking about," Reid said after the Panthers' 33-31 win. "It's the truth. You can't deny it. We've just got to do more to make this better. ...
"People who don't want things to change, people who want to maintain the status quo ... they have to subvert. They have to distract. They have to redirect from what we're trying to accomplish. We have to stay strong. We have to stay diligent."
Before the game Reid told coach Ron Rivera and some of his teammates that he would take a knee during the anthem, and remained true to his word: He wasn't sticking to sports.
"Nothing will change unless you talk about it, so we'll continue to talk about it," Reid explained to reporters last week. "We'll continue to hold America to the standard it says on paper that we're all created equal because it's not that way right now. But we're going to keep pushing towards that."
Rivera, who grew up in a military family, had previously made it clear that he wants his players to stand during the anthem though he has never mandated it. That said, he told reporters last week that he and Reid spoke about how each of them felt about anthem protests.
"We feel good about who he is a young man and who we are as an organization," Rivera explained at the time. "Probably the biggest question he asked me really was, 'What would you say your base fronts of coverage are?' He just seemed ready to roll."