CHARLOTTE – The first time around, Eric Reid walked into Bank of America stadium alone.
The 2018 season was four weeks old, and Carolina needed a safety. Reid, the former 49ers Pro Bowler who knelt alongside Colin Kaepernick to protest racial inequality and systemic oppression, had been a free agent since the conclusion of the 2017 season.
His demeanor that day when he signed a one-year deal was, in a word, tense. And understandably so given the circumstances of his situation.
This time around, when Reid arrived at Bank of America Stadium to sign a three-year contract, was different.
"It's vastly different," Reid acknowledged.
Sure, the terms of the deal are the obvious difference. But it goes well beyond that.
Reid was accompanied by his family on Monday. His wife, Jaid, and their two daughters were all here to celebrate the occasion with him.
It allowed us to see a different side of Reid – the devoted family man. And everyone was all smiles.
"Oh, it's nap time," said Reid, smiling as he looked down at his youngest daughter, Knysna, while they waited on the elevator. "She's fighting it."
When Reid joined the Panthers last season, his family remained in New Jersey. He opened up about how hard that was on him.
"That was probably the toughest thing I've ever had to do. I've never been away from my family that long – especially my daughters. It made the season that much more difficult not being able to be there for them," Reid said. "I'm excited that this year they'll be with me.
"I can help my oldest daughter with homework when I get home. I can put my daughters to bed. I can take some of the workload off of my wife. Charlotte reminds me of Louisiana a little bit in the sense that it's kind of country with a lot of space. We'll probably get a place with a yard for my dog. I'm excited about having them here for the season."
Many were surprised when they learned that Reid had opted not to test the market. But Charlotte and the Panthers made a strong impression on him, he got the "market value" contract he coveted and he was happy to avoid the uncertainty of free agency, especially for the sake of his family. That's where his loyalty lies.
"There's a peace of mind not having to be a free agent. It gives my family peace of mind knowing where we'll be the next couple of years. I enjoy being here," Reid said. "I can envision my family being here."
View photos of safety Eric Reid and his family as he signs a three-year deal to remain with Carolina.