Were you ever concerned this wasn’t going to happen?
It’s interesting. It actually came faster than I thought, but I’m happy to be playing football again.
Is this a system that seems to fit your skill set particularly well?
Yeah, I mean today was a good first day. I’m familiar with coverages. We actually use some of the terminology I used in college so that was exciting for me, kind of made the transition easier. I’m just excited to be back on the field.
What did it mean to hear Torrey Smith talk about you the way he did?
Well, I mean we played together. Torrey was a teammate of mine in San Francisco. I appreciate his kind words.
You mentioned that this came together a lot faster than you may have anticipated. Can you sort of take us through the process of how you ended up here?
Those circumstances have to do with my case and so you’d have to talk to my lawyer about that.
What are your plans Sunday, assuming you’re active, in terms of the national anthem?
Again, that information’s part of my case so I can’t talk about it.
Eric, the fact that you’re referencing the case, we can assume that the case will keep moving forward?
Without a doubt, yes.
You said this happened faster than you thought. Why is that?
Because I thought it would take longer. (laughs)
Can you provide us a little insight as far as the emotional journey getting here?
When I got the call I had just finished working out. I was like “Oh, OK, that’s surprising.” So I just went back and forth with my agent. I said, “Let’s do it.”
It sounded like you had at least one other team interested. Why Carolina?
They had a better offer.
Were the 49ers the other team?
Any other offers?
Not at the time, no.
Can you give people who might not be as familiar with the things you’ve been doing in the community a look at some of the projects you’ve done, some of the charity work you’ve done and some of the things you’ve partnered with?
My main goal is to empower my people. Colin Kaepernick and I have done numerous events in the community. Recently, we went to the Lower Eastside Girls Club in Harlem which was a powerful experience because I have two daughters. And to see the program that they have in place for the youth in the inner city is just amazing. It’s very powerful, so our goal is to use our platform to empower our people and to not only open the door for us, but to build our own building and have our own door. So we want to encourage our people to be strong.
Eric, I understand several months ago you went in a different direction than The Players’ Coalition for reasons, I guess, of communication and management. The work you just described now that you’re doing with Colin Kaepernick, will that stay on a separate track or do you see…
A separate track than The Players’ Coalition?
Than the Players’ Coalition, yeah.
The Players’ Coalition is an NFL-funded subversion group, so that’s why I removed myself from them and I’ll keep moving forward with Colin.
Ron mentioned that you played about 60 percent of the snaps on defense today. What are sort of your personal goals for the rest of the season?
To get into playing shape. Although I’ve been training five days a week it’s nothing like being on the field taking on blocks, chasing after fast guys. So trying to get my conditioning up and then just helping the team. Hopefully I can make some plays, put us in a good position to win games. That’s the main goal.
How long do you think it’ll take you to get back into playing shape? Or I guess where you’d like to be at?
Hopefully by the end of this week. Let’s shoot for that.
Eric, you said back in an article in March that you wouldn’t be protesting this year if you played in 2018. Is that still the case or have you changed your mind on that?
I said that I would be considering other ways, and I’m still considering.
Eric, did the Panthers ask you what your plans would be from a protest-type standpoint?
Not before I signed, but I’ve talked to a couple people about it. As I said, I’m still evaluating the scope of our country and I’ll make that decision later.
What were your conversations with owner David Tepper?
I actually haven’t met him yet.
What do you bring to this defense at the safety position and do you consider yourself among the best safeties in the NFL?
I do. I think and I hope I bring some leadership, some presence. I’m extremely excited to be working with Donte (Jackson) because he did go to a great school. He might not need help, he’s leading the team in interceptions so maybe he can help me a little. But I’m excited to have him on my side.
You’re joining a defense that’s got a lot of veterans and star power. Is that part of the appeal of coming to this place?
It kind of reminds me of my rookie year (in San Francisco). We had Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Ray McDonald. We had some guys. And walking on that field today it kind of brought me back to that. Julius Peppers is out there standing, I’m like, “Goodness” (laughs). So yeah, I’m excited to play with those guys.
Captain Munnerlyn said you looked bigger in person. Did you have that discussion?
Yeah, I get that. Coming out of high school all the scouts told me that I would be a linebacker. They said that 100 percent. But I’ve always been a bigger safety.
Eric, what was Kaepernick’s reaction to you getting back in?
A ton of support. This will be the first time that I’m playing in a season not having my family with me, so he’s filling in some gaps for me in my absence. I’m extremely appreciative to him for that.
To be clear, your family is where?
Is there a learning curve coming from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3?
It’s similar. I played in a 4-3 in college. Cover Four is always Cover Four. Cover Three is always Cover Three. It’s just, you always have 11 people on the field, you just put them in different spots. So really, it’s just learning the terminology.
Have you spent a lot of time with safety Mike Adams with you two being the field commanders back there?
Today was the first day that I spent time with the guys since it was the bye week, so everybody was out of town. But shoot, 15 years, I know he’s seen it all.
Donte Jackson said you say you have the best hands in the secondary.
Without a doubt. No question. He dropped two today so I’ll just leave that out there.
How good is Donte Jackson?
How good is he? He’s good. He can be great. He just has to work and keep working. He has what it takes.
Do you think you signing here will open the door for opportunities for Colin Kaepernick in the NFL again?
Can you explain how strongly you feel about the issue of empowerment – the one that you’re standing behind – why that was worth potential risk?
I’ll put it this way – next year will be 2019. It will mark 400 years since the first slaves touched the soil in this country. That’s 400 years of systemic oppression. That’s slavery, Jim Crow, New Jim Crow, mass incarceration – you name it. The Great Depression, they come out with the New Deal. Black people didn’t have access to those government stimulus packages. The New Deal set up what is known as the modern day middle class. We didn’t have access to those programs – the G.I. Bill, Social Security, home loans, none of that. So this has been happening since my people have gotten here. So I just felt the need to say something about it.
How much more does this give you the opportunity, now being on the field, to get the word out and get people to realize what you’re standing behind?
I think, as we said when we started – Colin and I – nothing will change unless you talk about it. So we’re going to talk about it. We’re going to continue hold America to the standard that it says on paper, that we’re all created equal, because it’s not that way right now. But we’re going to keep pushing towards that.
Do you feel comfortable – obviously today you do – but when you made this decision to come to Carolina, come to Charlotte, did you feel like you would be supported in those endeavors?
I know the people I have in my corner, and that’s all the support I need. There’s always opposition when you speak on topics like I’m speaking on. But I’m a black man in America. I grew up black in America. You can’t tell me that what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen is not true.
You played here two years ago and I believe you and Kaepernick both knelt and if I remember correctly, there may have been something from the stands that was said like I’m sure there was at a lot of games that you participated in protesting. Do you remember what was said, particularly here especially at a time where a young black man had just been shot by the police here, what that experience was like for you here?
I felt those emotions time and time again. You can’t live in your own house in America without getting killed. So it’s powerful. Like I said, I will keep speaking for my people.