BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Saying that he knew in his heart it was time and that his son Garrett “wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” a “humbled” Andy Reid returned to the Eagles on Wednesday.
The Eagles coach returned to training camp three days after Garrett Reid, 29, was found dead in his Lehigh University dormitory room.
“I’m a football coach. That’s what I do,” Andy Reid said after a morning practice. “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.”
Reid, his wife, Tammy, and their four other children buried Garrett on Tuesday. More than 900 people, including many from the Eagles and NFL communities, attended the funeral service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Broomall.
“I’m a humble man standing before you, very humble man,” Reid said, his voice cracking, at the outset of an 18-minute news conference that did not include a single football question. “I’m humble because of the outpouring — not only the media, but our football team, from the fans. It was unbelievable.”
Garrett Reid, who had been assisting the Eagles strength and conditioning coaching staff for the last few years, was pronounced dead after a team official made a 911 call Sunday morning. Lehigh police said that there was no indication of suicide or foul play.
Autopsy results are pending, although the Reids acknowledged in a statement on Monday that their son had lost his ongoing battle with drug addiction. Reid was asked how he knew that to be the case and if he had already seen the Northampton County coroner’s autopsy results.
“I’m going to let all that take its course,” Reid said.
Autopsy results are still pending, and it could be weeks before a toxicology report is made public.
Reid equated his son’s struggle with addiction to “fighting a grizzly bear,” he said. “It’s hard to win.” While Garrett Reid’s addiction consumed the family for nearly a decade — rehab stints, several prison stays — Andy Reid said that he would most remember the friendship he had developed with his son as he became an adult.
“He taught me a lot of lessons in life that I’ll use down the road,” Reid said. “You’ll always remember the smile and the jokester that he was. You remember those things. Those help you get through the good and the bad times.”
Reid said that he had spoken to leaders in the Mormon church; a grief counselor, Dr. Kevin Elko, who also met with Eagles players; and former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who lost his son while he coached the Colts, for support.
He intimated that he had once before returned to coaching after the death of a family member. Reid lost both his parents, Walter and Liz, in the 1990s. Reid was asked how his wife and children — Britt, Crosby, Drew Ann and Spencer — were coping.
“Thank goodness for our faith,” Reid said. “We got a great foundation that you bank on. You find strength there. You’re going to cry a little bit, and you’re going to laugh little bit, you’re going to cry some more, and you’re going to laugh some more. It’s a tough thing that way, but this is life.”
Reid addressed his football family before Wednesday’s mock game in preparation for Thursday’s preseason opener against the Steelers. He did the same on Sunday just hours after he had learned his son had died. He said he saw strength from his team.
“I always tell players there are four things to go about life and how you approach it,” Reid said. “One of them is eliminate distractions, the other ones (are) creating energy, you fear nothing and you attack everything. And that’s how you go about life.”
After missing Sunday’s and Monday’s practices, Reid pulled up to the Lehigh practice fields four minutes before an 11 a.m. start. He got out of the black SUV, driven by the team’s director of security, grabbed the schedule from an assistant — as he always does — and went to work.
“It’s time for football. It’s time to move on and play ball,” defensive end Trent Cole said. “Football is going to help. This is my opinion — it’s going to help Andy move forward with this situation. They say do something that you love to do.”
Quarterback Michael Vick said that the team was dedicating its coming season to Garrett Reid. Many of the players had grown close to the coach’s eldest son, who seemed to have rebounded since his release from prison in 2009.
While a number of players said that they plan to rally around their coach and use his son’s death as inspiration, Reid said he hoped that Garrett’s and his family’s very public ordeal would help others afflicted by addition and their families.
Reid said the team’s dedicating the season in Garrett’s honor is “not something I’d ever ask. That’s not how I operate. I’d hope that it would be a rallying cry for those people that had the same struggles that they overcome and make them stronger, and families that hurt.”