Amid Tragedy, Players Stand Behind Reid

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy ReidHowie Roseman made the stroll from the Varsity House to his car. The black BMW SUV was parked in its usual spot next to the practice fields at Lehigh.

It was a couple minutes shy of 2:30 p.m., and the Eagles were getting ready to begin their regularly-scheduled afternoon practice. Roseman grabbed his sunglasses and his camouflage hat. He sprayed on some sunblock and returned to the walkway where the players were filtering out. He greeted Jason Avant, put his arm around DeSean Jackson and made his way to the practice field.

Less than seven hours earlier, Roseman was the man who had to deliver the news to the public: Garrett Reid, Andy’s oldest son, had been found dead at the age of 29. Tragedy had struck the Reid family, and the Eagles’ family.

But practice would still go on.

Jim Washburn was the first man on the field, preparing for the afternoon session by setting up three orange tackling dummies and then sitting alone in the corner of the field where the defensive linemen practice together. There were fans in the stands, but they remained mostly quiet. The humming from 11 TV trucks and vans was the most audible sound.

Eagles players made their way onto the field, mostly in groups. Chas Henry and Alex Henery. The entire offensive line. Howard Mudd driving his cart. Marty Mornhinweg and Juan Castillo, the men charged with the task of temporarily trying to keep the players focused on football.

Before practice started, Jeffrey Lurie delivered a speech to the team. Mornhinweg stood to his right, and Roseman to his left. The players knelt and leaned on their helmets as they listened to the owner. Lurie then made his way to the tent to speak to reporters, breaking down temporarily when talking about how hard Andy Reid had tried with his family.

As the players broke off into their individual positional groups, there were signs of normalcy. Wide receivers coach David Culley ran over to Nnamdi Asomugha and gave him a hard time after the veteran cornerback got schooled by Jackson on a double move during one-on-one drills.

Washburn yelled at his linemen, instructing them to turn and run when the ball was passed downfield. And O.J. Atogwe stood behind the first team, continuing the process of learning the defense by picking the brain of safeties coach Michael Zordich.

“Obviously, it’s a difficult time for us today,” Asomugha said afterwards. “Still managed to come out here and practice, but it’s definitely been a tough day. Garrett was – is – a part of our football family, our extended family, our immediate family, so it’s a very tough time for us. But like they’ve been saying, we’ve been putting the Reid family in our prayers. Just like coach has supported us, we’ll continue to support him during this tough time.”

Jason Avant, whose father died in a car crash in April 2011, spoke after practice about the love he and his teammates have for Reid.

“We’re praying as hard as we can for him, just to let him know this team really, really, really, really, really loves him,” Avant said. “When this thing happened, we were hurting with him. He was there with me personally when my Dad passed last year, first one to call me. And I just want to let him know that I love him and this team loves him. Garrett was a happy, lucky person, and we know that he’s in a better place, and we love Coach Reid.”

And then there was Michael Vick, the man who got a second chance from Reid after getting out of prison three years ago.

“Coach has always been a great supporter of us as a team, as an organization,” Vick said. “He’s been a rock for us and a big teddy bear for us, so we’re going to lean on him, and we’re going to be there for him, and we’re going to stay strong for him until he comes back and can lead us on. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. It’s very difficult, but we’ll find the strength and a way to get through it.”

When Roseman finally got in his car to drive away, it was 6 p.m., and rain poured down on the empty practice fields. It was a day, and a practice, unlike any other for everyone in the organization.

And tomorrow, they’ll all try again.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

  • Run Eagles Run

    As much as Andy Reid has frustrated me, its always been obvious to me that his players love him, respect him, and truly look up to him. Says a lot about the man who represents our city. Many times I thought this team would be better off without him, as far as wins and losses. But its hard to root against him as a person. Reid has changed a lot. He is a good man. This team is behind him, win or lose, and I will be too.

  • lauragoldman

    More information on the designated charity for Garrett Reid
    http://nakedphiladelphian.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-411-on-laurel-house-designated.html