At 10:57 AM on Wednesday morning, a black SUV pulled up next to the practice fields at Lehigh University. Head coach Andy Reid emerged from the SUV as he normally does before practice. He walked over and addressed the team in the end zone of the field before conducting a 35-minute mock game in advance of Thursday's preseason opener against the Steelers.
Less than 24 hours after burying his oldest son, Garrett, who passed away on Sunday morning, Reid was trying to regain a sense of normalcy in his life. With encouragement and the support of his wife, Tammy, and his family, a "humbled" Reid returned to the field because he felt it was "the right thing to do."
"I know my son wouldn't have wanted it any other way," Reid said following the mock game.
About 900 people attended Garrett Reid's funeral service on Tuesday. The entire Eagles organization - players, coaches and front office staff - were among those who showed to support the Reid family as well as former Eagles players and coaches, coaches from other teams and prominent NFL dignitaries including Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Reid initially addressed the team Sunday and "tried to be candid" with what would take place over the next couple of days. It was apparent from initial remarks by Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie that Reid's absence from the team would be brief.
In addition to speaking with church leaders, Reid had Dr. Kevin Elko offer grief counseling to his entire family - both blood and football. Reid also said he spoke with former head coach Tony Dungy, whose son James committed suicide during the 2005 season.
"Life's going to throw you some curveballs. You understand that," Reid said. "You're not going to bail. You're going to keep swinging.
"This is life. This is the challenge that we've been presented on earth."
Reid was very appreciative of the support from the fans. His players are also staying strong for Reid as quarterback Michael Vick said that the team would dedicate the season to Garrett, but Vick said that he, personally, will play for the honor of his head coach. Reid was too humbled to offer a response except to say that his son and Vick were close having both shared some of the same life experiences.
While the players will dedicate their performance to Garrett, Reid does not want nor does he expect the passing of his son to be trivialized into something that could be a rallying point for the team. Reid wants it, however, to be a source of inspiration for those who share in the struggles that Garrett had.
"I hope it would be a rallying cry for those people that have had the same struggles that they can overcome and make them stronger," Reid said.
Reid is confident that he is fully focused on the job of being a football coach.
"I'm a football coach. That's what I do," Reid said.
That does not mean Reid will have moments where he thinks of his son. Of course Reid will, he's only human. Reid said will deal with them as they come, but he will not allow himself to be distracted by his emotions.
"You fear nothing and you attack everything," Reid said.
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