The usual excuses were trotted out when Colin Kaepernicks fellow protestor found himself out of a job. And none of them turned out to be true
Why Eric Reid wasnt playing football at the start of 2018 was as obvious to his detractors as anyone. But with each passing week, with each snap, with each dynamic swoop to close on a quarterback or break up a pass, that eight-month stretch out of the NFL takes on a darker, more sinister tone.
To recap, Reid knelt alongside his friend Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they played together at the San Francisco 49ers. And, just like Kaepernick, he soon found himself without a job despite being a solid pro and in the prime years of his career. Detractors hit Reid with the same nonsense that they used to justify Kaepernicks exile. A rebuke of his political beliefs dressed up as football commentary: he couldnt find a team because he wasnt very good; players of his type, at his position, were dying out; he would be a distraction.
Unlike Kaepernick Reid eventually found a team willing to take him on he signed for the Carolina Panthers four months after filing a grievance against the NFL alleging teams colluded to keep him out of the league. Reid plays at safety and teams want linebacker-safety hybrids, guys who are comfortable playing the run and turning and running in coverage. Reid is the prototype.
And, in some ways, Reid has been a distraction. He speaks freely and openly about politics, and continues to kneel for the anthem. He has accused with some justification the NFL of singling him out for drug tests. He has got into a pre-game scuffle with another player campaigning for social justice, Malcolm Jenkins.
And guess what: Reids on-field play continues to make a mockery of fears about those distractions. He is one of the five most impactful, consistent defenders on one of the top-10 defenses in the league. Through four weeks of the 2019 season he has played 100% of the teams defensive snaps. His head coach, Ron Rivera, one of the sharpest defensive minds in the league, has built a defensive scheme with Reid as one of its tentpoles he is as important as the teams other defensive stars, Luke Kuechly, James Bradberry and Gerald McCoy.
And, besides, are Reids storylines any more of a distraction than the Panthers run on a behind-the-scenes documentary? Or star quarterback Cam Newtons new vegan diet? Or whether this is Newtons last year in Charlotte or not?
Sunday saw Reids best performance of the season so far, his best since his return. He rattled Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson physically and mentally. Reid was here there and everywhere, in coverage and in the backfield. He finished the game with a tackle for a loss, a fumble recovery, and a sack.