CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers' new safety Eric Reid joined team practice for the first time Monday.

The Panthers signed the veteran defensive back to a one-year contract on Thursday, following an injury to starting safety Da'Norris Searcy.

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On Monday, Reid spoke to the media wearing a t-shirt that read #IMWITHKAP -- referring to former NFL player Colin Kaepernick and his national anthem protest.

Reid was one of the first to take a knee alongside the San Francisco 49ers quarterback during the 2016 season -- sparking protests and backlash from fans.

Reid told NBC Charlotte his return to the NFL happened sooner than he thought. He said he knew how divisive kneeling during the national anthem would be, but for him, it was the only option.

"I will keep speaking for my people," Reid said.

The safety fielded plenty of non-football questions more than 12 minutes just hours after leaving the field, his first time on the gridiron since last season.

"I'm happy to be playing football again," said Reid.

Despite being back in uniform, Reid is still suing the NFL for, he says, colluding to keep him out of because of his social activism and his kneeling during the National Anthem.

"As we said when we started, Colin (Kaepernick) and I, nothing will change unless you talk about it. We're going to continue to hold America to the standard that it says on paper that we're all created equal. Because it's not that way right now.

Unlike Kaepernick, Reid is now back in the NFL. However, the risk of never playing again was apparently worth it.

"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. Slavery, old Jim Crow, new Jim Crow, mass incarceration, you name it. This has been happening since my people have gotten here. So I just felt the need to say something about it."

The last time Reid was at Bank of America Stadium in 2016 with the 49ers, he was kneeling next to Kaepernick. When asked if he planned to protest during this week's home game, Reid said he'll keep evaluating the scope of the country and make a decision later.

Reid played his first five seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers after being selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

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