The players and the coaches had their morning meetings and then boarded the buses from Lehigh University to make the trip back to South Philadelphia, back to Lincoln Financial Field to devote some needed time to grieve, to pay respect, to remember fondly the great life of former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
There is no football to discuss, folks. Not now. The real world intrudes on this day of Johnson's Memorial Service at Lincoln Financial Field, where the entire Eagles organization, dozens of former players and close friends of Johnson offer their tributes and memories to the beloved man who passed on Tuesday, July 28.
"It's important because we haven't had a chance to experience the emotional part of it," said safety Quintin Mikell. "I'm glad we're doing this. It is the right thing to do."
Andy Reid cancelled both practices today to give his players and his coaching staff a chance to attend the Memorial Service in the West Club of Lincoln Financial Field. It is going to be an emotional day, a necessary day, one that will further the bond within the Eagles family. Johnson lives on within the Eagles forever and today the team goes to him with open hearts and teary eyes.
"When you know somebody like we knew Jim and when you understand what he meant to all of us, it's an important day," said cornerback Sheldon Brown. "He made a difference in the lives and the careers of everyone here, and many who played here in past seasons."
This is a rare and special day, then. The players have no time to go home and dress in their best suits and Sunday finest. They are gathering as a team, busing down and then heading right back to Lehigh for evening meetings and preparation for Saturday's practices. There are precious few days remaining in training camp, but Reid understands how important it is for the entire Eagles organization to set aside the wins and the losses to cherish another day together with Johnson.
We're pausing, then, from the two-a-day evaluations. Something much more important is happening today. Between the tears and the handshakes and the hugs of former players and the current team gathering, a great man will be remembered with laughter, with awe and with unabashed love. It is the way it should be on a day when football is in the background and celebrating life is what matters most.