Hayes: 'Humble' Reid returns to practice

BETHLEHEM — Andy Reid, humbled and still grieving, went back to work at 10:56 a.m.

Less than 24 hours after he buried his eldest boy, Garrett.

Reid emerged from the passenger side of his black SUV, was handed a practice schedule and roster by an assistant, then lumbered toward a distant corner of the Lehigh fields where his 90 players and voluminous staff awaited his words.

More than 100 yards away, out of earshot and forbidden to videotape the moment, 30 reporters watched.

Reid spoke to the team for perhaps 1 minute. It then dispersed and meandered through a typically mundane pregame walk-through — a walk-through Garrett would have watched. After casting about for years, Garrett lately acted as an unofficial strength and conditioning assistant.

The Eagles play host to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Reid will be on the sideline.

Garrett, who died Sunday, will not.

Garrett was 29 when, Reid suggested in a statement released by the family, he lost his battle with drug addiction. He was found dead in his Lehigh dorm room.

Remarkably, incredibly, Reid spoke with reporters for 18 minutes after the walk-through.

He answered every question imaginable.

Every one.

He never quavered.

Not once.

He displayed a humanity, a vulnerability, he never before showed in his nearly 14 years as the Eagles’ head coach.

“I’m a humbled man standing before you. A very humbled man,” Reid said. “I’m humbled because of the outpouring . . . I’m not sure you ever think that many people care.
“I’m sure my son would feel the same way.”

And, typically, Reid was anticipatory of criticism, and defiant: “I know that coming back and coaching was the right thing to do. I know my son wouldn’t have wanted it any other way . . . In my heart. I just felt it, in my heart. The support of my family. My wife.

“With that, I move on.”
And he recited the eight Eagles whose injuries will keep them out of tomorrow’s game and detailed the team’s plan for using starters and backups.

Business as usual … for a minute or so.

Over the next 14 minutes, Reid fielded zero football-related questions.

He declined to provide details of how he knew Garrett’s death was drug-related, and brushed aside a couple of other questions, but, this morning, he did so gently.

Like a man recently wounded.

A man weakened, but certain of his recovery.

He thanked the assembled press for its compassion; the fans and his team for their gushing support; and the NFL, whose representatives flocked to the Mormon temple in Broomall for services Tuesday morning, attended by nearly 1,000 mourners.

Unprovoked, Reid offered a glimpse into his family's daily panic over the addictions that gripped both Garrett and his younger brother, Britt. They are the eldest of Reid's five children.

Drugs sent both to jail; Garrett, twice.

Britt, married this summer and coaching football at Temple, seems to have righted himself.

Garrett, with a new physique and a less rambunctious lifestyle, clearly never did.

“It’s a sad situation. It’s one my son has been battling for a number of years. My family has been battling,” Reid said. “It doesn’t mean you stop loving your son. It’s not what you do. You love him.”

Reid, for perhaps the first time, publicly thanked God for fortifying him and his family. Reid adopted the Mormon faith while playing offensive line at Brigham Young University, where he met his wife, Tammy.

The Reid clan was raised in the Mormon faith but rarely referenced it.

“I praise my Heavenly Father for the support and the strength that he’s given me to be able to work through this,” Reid said. “My family, and my football family.”

Tammy Reid did not resent her husband quickly returning to the world in which he is most comfortable.

“She figured I would be going. She encouraged that,” Reid said of his resumption at the helm. “As long as I was OK with it, she encouraged it.”

Reid said he felt strength from his football family the way he drew it from his own family since he left the team Sunday morning, when Garrett was found.

“I feel their love. Their comfort,” Reid said.

He spoke with his church leaders and Dr. Kevin Elko, a sports psychologist and a counselor who also has acted as grief counselor Reid, his family and the team. He spoke with Tony Dungy, the former NFL coach whose teenage son killed himself during the 2005 season.

Reid returned to camp Wednesday morning in time to address the team at a pre-practice assembly. He thanked them for their caring.

It was the first time he had spoken with them since midday Sunday, when he explained that Garrett's death would take him away from the team for a few days.

“I had an opportunity to address the football team, which I needed to do,” Reid said.

Again and again Reid returned to the central thought that, while his family and his parents have gaping holes in their souls with his passing, Garrett was in a “better place … at peace.”
Fighting addiction for nearly a decade, Reid said, is “Like fighting a grizzly bear. It’s hard to win,” Reid said.

Now, the Reid clan has its own fight.

“You’ve got to get it out. You’re going to cry a little bit. You’re going to laugh a little bit. You’re going to cry some more, you’re going to laugh some more. This is life. This is life.”

Michael Vick, who, like Garrett Reid, spent time in jail, had bonded with Garrett. Vick said he would dedicate this season to Garrett’s memory.

Vick and Garrett were friends, Andy Reid noted.

So were Andy Reid and Garrett — the normal progression, as children become adults.

“He taught me a lot of lessons in life that I’ll use down the road,” Reid said.

Hard, hard lessons.