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Wide receiver Torrey Smith chuckled at the notion that safety Eric Reid’s return to the NFL this week might be a distraction for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday when they host the New York Giants.

Smith said Reid’s stance on racial injustice hasn’t been an issue in the locker room, adding that “no one cares” if he kneels or not during the national anthem.

He said Reid’s new teammates are more eager to see what he does on the field rather than what he does before the game.

“It’s not like he’s out there and coach calls ‘Cover 3’ and he’s going to take a knee and let a guy run by him. If that was the issue, it would be a problem,” Smith said with a laugh. “But that’s not the way it works. Eric knows what is best for Eric and we all know what he is fighting for.”

Reid, who knelt alongside Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco during the national anthem to bring attention to racial and social injustice, hasn’t said if he will demonstrate Sunday in his first game since filing a collusion grievance against the NFL alleging that teams wouldn’t sign him because of his protesting.

Regardless of Reid’s beliefs, the Panthers (2-1) are excited to have the 2013 Pro Bowler, who is expected to start at safety after Da’Norris Searcy was placed on injured reserve last week with a concussion.

Cam Newton said the Panthers “got a steal” when they signed the 26-year-old Reid.

“He’s a great player,” Newton said. “We’ve accepted him with open arms. We know he’s going to be an impact player for us, and that’s all I care about.”

Reid, who is African-American, said after signing a one-year contract with Carolina that he plans to “continue to speak for my people” and use his platform to talk about injustices.

“I’m going to stand by him and none of that will be a distraction as far as us winning football games,” Newton said. “What he does on the football field is going to impact this team. I know that.”

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