Eric Reid's activism might overshadow excellent play for Panthers

Eric Reid is entering his seventh season in the NFL and his second with the Panthers. Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Reporters began surrounding Eric Reid inside the Carolina Panthers locker room after Friday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. Most weren’t there to ask the 27-year-old strong safety about what happened on the field.

They were there to get Reid’s thoughts on the NFL’s partnership with rapper mogul Jay-Z, hired last week to manage some of the league’s entertainment and social justice issues.

Wearing a black Colin Kaepernick jersey with #IMWITHKAP on the front, Reid spent the better part of the next 10 minutes blasting Jay-Z for what he considers selling out to the league.

While Reid will continue to use his platform to speak out on issues he cares about, it’s sometimes forgotten that he is a top-notch football player.

As a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, Reid made the Pro Bowl, and he has been playing at a high level ever since. A three-year, $22 million deal signed in February is further evidence he is considered among the better safeties in the NFL.

But Reid the football player might get overlooked because he kneels during the national anthem to protest social injustice and takes strong stances on social media.

“He’s a good man, a good father, a good husband, a good teammate,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Again, he’s civic-minded. Right now, we’ve all just got to take a nice deep breath and we’ll be fine."

Shortly after the Panthers concluded their Aug. 2 Fan Fest, an event highlighted by a long touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Curtis Samuel that on the surface made cornerback James Bradberry look bad, Reid took to Twitter.

“My bad,” he wrote, taking responsibility for Samuel being so open because Reid overcommitted to covering tight end Greg Olsen.

Rivera loved this. It was a reminder Reid doesn’t use social media just to promote a cause.

“It tells everybody to take responsibility,” Rivera said. “It tells everybody you have to be accountable to your teammates. For all the young players to see that, that speaks volumes about the type of young man he is, and those are the type of players we need on this football team.”

Reid has blended right in since signing as a free agent this past September.

“He’s been a great addition to us,” Olsen said. “He brings an edge. He’s a professional guy. He’s smart. He’s been really good for that young D-backs group. He can play.”

That Reid finds himself in the spotlight outside of football doesn’t bother Olsen.

“If he didn’t think he could do both well, I don’t think he would do it,” he said. “Each guy handles things their own way. He has the awareness of what he can handle, what he can’t, what things get in the way and what things don’t. He’s done a good job separating the two, and when it’s time to play, he plays.”