A scene that none of us could have imagined, in the fourth day of a week none of us were prepared for. Andy Reid stepping out of his black SUV and back onto the practice field, almost exactly 24 hours after the funeral services for his son, Garrett, began.
After a quiet and surreal walkthrough that lasted about a half-hour, Reid made his way over to the media tent and took to the podium.
“I’m a humble man standing before you. A very humble man,” he said. “I’m humble because of the outpouring, not only from the media but from our football team, from the fans, it was unbelievable. I’m not sure you ever think that many people care – not that you go in that direction – but it’s a very humbling feeling. And I know my son would feel the same way.”
Some 900 people showed up for Garrett’s service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Broomall Tuesday. The representation from around the league was extraordinarily strong, and clearly impacted Reid in a profound way.
Jeffrey Lurie reiterated after the service that Reid planned on returning to the sidelines this week. Word came down Wednesday morning that he would be at the team’s practice later that day. Almost no time has passed. It is not easy for everyone to understand why he would return so soon.
“I’m a football coach; that’s what I do,” said Reid. “And I know my son wouldn’t want it any other way. I can’t put it any more frank than that; he loved the Philadelphia Eagles.”
How, Reid was asked, did he know that it was time to come back?
“My heart,” he replied. “I just felt it in my heart.”
Players began walking out onto the field around 10:45 and gathered at the corner of the end zone. At 10:57, the SUV that pulls up front every day, year after year– the one that was missing Sunday morning – came to a stop in its normal spot. Reid got out wearing his usual gear – black shorts, black shirt, white hat – and walked towards his group. After a short pause, he huddled the team up for a beat before the horn sounded and practice began. He addressed them earlier that morning as well, the second time he brought them together since Garrett’s passing. The first came just hours after learning the news.
“I always tell the players there are four things you go about in life, in how you approach it: One is you eliminate distractions, the other is create energy, you fear nothing and you attack everything. That’s how you go about life,” said Reid.
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“I felt a strength with our team yesterday. I don’t look at it from a team standpoint, I look at it from an individual standpoint,” he said. “Individuals build themselves and come together, but you have to be OK with yourself first. I think that closure with that was very important, to see Garrett at peace, be able to talk through it with one another.
“It’s not one experience that makes up a team, it’s many experiences that bring a team together. If this can be a small thing that helps them get to know each other better, that’s a positive.”
With that, Reid exited the tent and worked his way back to the truck. The media briskly formed an informal line to shake the hand of Andy Reid, who offered us each a “Thank you” and a pat on the back before riding off.