Pan­thers say Reid’s re­turn no dis­trac­tion

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - SPORTS -

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — Wide re­ceiver Tor­rey Smith chuck­led at the no­tion that 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 AfricanAmer­i­can, 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.”

Things to watch in Sun­day’s game:

FA­MIL­IAR FACES

When Pan­thers mid­dle

line­backer Luke Kuechly turned on the film this week, he saw plenty of fa­mil­iar plays be­ing run by the Giants. New York’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor is Mike Shula, who worked as Carolina’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor from 2013-17. So Kuechly saw just about ev­ery one of Shula’s play calls over the last five years in prac­tice.

Of course, what Kuechly didn’t see too much of on tape this week were zone read op­tions, some­thing Shula ran fre­quently with New­ton as his quar­ter­back. That’s not some­thing the Giants are run­ning with the slow-footed Eli Man­ning at the helm. “If Eli runs like Cam does, then we are in trou­ble,” Kuechly said.

Mov­ing the ball and scor­ing points has been a strug­gle this sea­son for the Giants un­der Shula.

ON THE RUN

Giants coach Pat Shur­mur ad­mit­tedly didn’t use

rookie Saquon Barkley enough in the loss to the Saints last week­end. The run­ning game was lim­ited to 65 yards on 15 car­ries. Barkley had 44 yards on 10 car­ries, with 28 com­ing on a sprint around end. New York usu­ally doesn’t win un­less it can es­tab­lish some kind of run game to set up the play-ac­tion pass. Ex­pect Barkley to ei­ther dou­ble his car­ries this week or have backup Wayne Gall­man carry more than twice. The Pan­thers are al­low­ing 110 yards per game on the ground.

Jonathan Ste­wart, Carolina’s all-time lead­ing rusher, was placed on in­jured re­serve last week by New York.

VER­NON’S BACK

The Giants are op­ti­mistic that out­side line­backer Olivier Ver­non will see his first ac­tion of the sea­son af­ter a strong week of prac­tice. Shur­mur thinks that could give the de­fense a

boost, say­ing “when you have a fresh body that has the tal­ent, the skill and abil­i­ties of a pass rusher, it helps your de­fense. Cer­tainly adding him back to the mix will help.”

Ver­non has 401⁄2 sacks over the past five sea­sons while play­ing mostly de­fen­sive end. He missed the first four games af­ter suf­fer­ing a high an­kle sprain in late Au­gust.

RUSH­ING QBS

The Giants’ de­fense has strug­gled against op­pos­ing quar­ter­backs in the run game. In four games, op­po­si­tion QBs have gained 151 yards on 20 car­ries, a 7.55 av­er­age. That could be a ma­jor prob­lem this week with New­ton tak­ing snaps. The 2015 league MVP has car­ried 28 times for 136 yards and three touch­downs in three games. He has rushed for at least 700 yards in each of the last three sea­sons, join­ing Michael Vick as the only NFL

quar­ter­backs with three 700-yard sea­sons rush­ing. The Saints used a new wrin­kle last week­end against the Giants, hav­ing backup quar­ter­back Taysom Hill rush four times for 28 yards.

MORE MCCAF­FREY

Aided by New­ton’s skills as a run­ner, the Pan­thers have the league’s No. 1ranked rush­ing of­fense, while the Giants are 29th against the run. So it shouldn’t be too hard to fig­ure out what Carolina wants to do Sun­day. Chris­tian McCaf­frey is com­ing off a ca­reer-high 184 yards rush­ing on 28 car­ries in a 31-21 win against the Ben­gals be­fore the bye week. But given that of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Norv Turner is known to mix things up from week to week, it wouldn’t be a shocker if Turner leans a lit­tle more heav­ily on backup run­ning back C.J. An­der­son this week.

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