The question flooding social media in the last few days, particularly where the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons are concerned, is about safety help after injuries to starters on both teams.
A specific safety’s help.
Eric Reid, a former first round pick and starter for San Francisco from 2013-17, is still a free agent. He’s 26 years old, and has a Pro Bowl under his belt.
But he hasn’t been signed by an NFL team.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, after placing starting safety Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve last week after his second concussion in five weeks, said this week that the Panthers are comfortable with the safeties they have on the roster.
However, that doesn’t mean the team hasn’t discussed Reid.
“There are a lot of names that come out,” said Rivera on Tuesday. “And you’re going to discuss what you feel your primary needs are. For us, we looked at what we have on such short notice and we stuck with what we have. We feel very comfortable about the way our guys play. And I thought we did some really good things out there.”
Reid was the first player to kneel during the National Anthem with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, to protest social injustice and police brutality. When Kaepernick went unsigned through October, 2017 after opting out of his contract the previous March, he filed a collusion grievance against league owners under the collective bargaining agreement, which argued that Kaepernick was being punished for his protest.
Reid, who became a free agent in the spring, filed a similar collusion grievance in May. Proceedings for both are still underway.
Reid said in March that if he were on an NFL team for the 2018 season, he didn’t plan to kneel though still planned to work in the community to address social justice issues.
“They should be in the league, both of them,” said Carolina Panthers receiver Torrey Smith of Kaepernick and Reid after Tuesday’s practice.
Smith said that as a longtime friend of Reid’s, he would gladly answer any questions the staff might have about him as a player and as a person.
“Eric Reid is a Pro-Bowl caliber safety, 26-years old with a first-round pedigree,” he said. “And he’s one of the best men that I know. I know that teams obviously have to be interested in him, and honestly, with our injuries I hope he ends up here.
“I know how he is, his talent. If it’s something where (general manager Marty Hurney or Rivera) come and talk to me about him, I’ll be glad to talk about him as a player and as a person. He’s one of the best men that I’ve been around. I hope that’s something that can happen for us, because I know with the injuries that we have he could help this team.”
Smith indicated that it’s obvious Reid’s joining in with Kaepernick’s protest is why he hasn’t been signed.
“I think we all know why he hasn’t received a call,” said Smith, laughing. “I think you’d have to be foolish not to understand why he hasn’t received a call. They’re calling guys off the street who haven’t played in forever, and he’s...he’s young, he’s healthy, he’s always going to be in great shape. If y’all look at him, his arms are always shredded. He’s always great with his diet.
“It’s not just what he brings on the team, but he’s a great leader in the locker room. And I really hope he gets a shot. Because he deserves it, and it’s not right, what’s happening.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said this week that his team would not pursue a high-profile safety like Reid or a trade for Seattle’s Earl Thomas after losing starter Ricardo Allen for the rest of the season, but added that it didn’t have anything to do with Reid’s protest while with San Francisco.
On Monday, the Panthers re-signed safety Dezmen Southward to the practice squad.
Southward spent last year on the practice squad and was released during roster cuts this fall. Rivera said that Southward, because of his knowledge of Carolina’s system, is a player who be in consideration for the active roster if needed.
But Carolina struggled at safety against Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton last week after starting backup Colin Jones and ultimately sent in rookie Rashaan Gaulden.
Rivera said earlier this season that Gaulden was actually re-learning the traditional safety role after spending his collegiate career as a hybrid defensive back. He has yet to see significant time at safety in a game.
In Reid’s 69 career starts, he has 10 interceptions, 36 passes defensed, 327 tackles and a sack.
Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue