BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Philadelphia Eagles tried to honor coach Andy Reid's wishes by getting back to focusing on football Monday.
They responded with one of their most spirited practices since they reported to training camp at Lehigh University two weeks ago.
Running back LeSean McCoy challenged safety Kurt Coleman during the pass-protection drill and then stopped him in his tracks while talking trash. Coleman answered with two interceptions later. Fullback Stanley Havili threw a punch at cornerback at safety Phillip Thomas, who danced around until coaches intervened. Guard Evan Mathis emphatically pointed out defensive tackle Derek Landri had jumped offsides, drawing laughs from the fans.
"That was definitely a high-energy practice," Mathis said. "As a team, I thought we rallied together and picked each other up. When every single person has that mentality, it's a powerful thing."
It wasn't easy.
Players and coaches participated in a walkthrough and practice while also still trying to cope with the death of Reid's oldest son, Garrett Reid. The 29-year-old, who was attending training camp as a volunteer assistant with the strength and conditioning staff, was found dead in his Lehigh dorm room Sunday morning.
The Eagles issued a joint statement Monday afternoon from Lehigh University Chief of Police Ed Shupp, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and county coroner Zachary Lysek that indicated the investigation into the death is ongoing and that no addition information will be released until it is completed.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg ran Monday's practices in place of Andy Reid, who left the team Sunday. Reid is expected to return for the Eagles' preseason opener against Pittsburgh on Thursday. Most of the team is expected to attend Garrett Reid's funeral today in Broomall, Pa.
"It was quite different (without Reid)," Mornhinweg said. "Any time that your head coach is not available, it is always different. He's the leader of this football team, there's no question about that.
"And it was difficult because (the players) are certainly saddened and shocked. There is a balance to it. There is much grieving going on, but it's good for the players to get back on the field. Their minds can be free and focus on football once they cross the white lines here onto the practice field.
"That's sort of our responsibility in this situation. It's our responsibility and our duty to Andy, to the Philadelphia Eagles organization, to the city of Philadelphia, and the fans to get out there and do our jobs."
The Eagles did not take any time off. Less than an hour after Garrett Reid was pronounced dead in his dorm room by Lehigh University police Sunday morning, the team was out on the practice field for its daily walkthrough and returned Sunday afternoon for its regular practice.
That was the way Reid wanted it.
Several players mentioned Reid's desire for them to keep preparing for the season. He spoke to the players during a brief and emotional speech just before he left to be with his family and make funeral arrangements.
"He said, 'Guys, stick together. We're all in this together,' " McCoy said Monday. "We're actually his extended family, he said. "It's tough right now, but we need to stay together as a team even in his absence. He wants us to stay together, train hard, and try and achieve our goal. Playing a game is something big, but playing for him and his family actually motivates us a little bit more."
Several players took on leadership roles Monday in an effort to help Mornhinweg, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and the position coaches.
Veterans such as tackle Todd Herremans, who is entering his eighth NFL season, offered pointers to the younger players at their respective positions.
"You don't want to run into a low point right now where everybody is somber and down," Herremans said. "I think that if Andy was out here at practice with us, one of the main things he would want is us flying around, hustling back to the huddle, and executing just to keep practice moving. Those are the little things that we can control as players and I'm just trying to do my part and help out."
Garrett Reid's death hit some players harder than others.
One of the reasons quarterback Michael Vick was so diligent in his offseason workouts at the NovaCare Complex was Garrett Reid's presence and assistance in the weight room.
"Just a great spirit with a lot of enthusiasm," Vick said Monday. "Fun to be around and always made you smile when you were in a bad mood. He could always get you to crack a smile, and that's what I'm going to miss about him. That is what I enjoyed each and every day.
"It was great to get out there (Sunday and Monday) and throw the ball around a little bit and kind of get it off your mind. But when you walk off that field is when it hits you again and there is no escape from it. We just have to find some kind of inner peace and find a way to stay focused."
Center Jason Kelce had grown especially to close to Garrett Reid in the last year. While some players left town to go to their offseason homes, Kelce stayed in Philadelphia to rehab a sprained foot suffered late last season.
He heard about Garrett Reid's troubled past, which included an admitted heroin addiction and a 23-month jail sentence in 2007-2009 but only knew him as a fun, happy person.
"He was an awesome guy, full of life, a great person," said Kelce. "When I first heard about it and saw an ambulance heading to the dorms, I thought it was a coach who had gotten hurt or something. When I was told it was Garrett, I thought, 'This can't be right. Somebody must be misinformed.' "
This was not the first time the Eagles have had to deal with a tragedy during training camp.
In 2009, they went through two-a-day practices while mourning longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who succumbed to cancer on July 28, 2009, the day before the players were due to report to Lehigh.
The Eagles finished 11-5 that season and finished second in the NFC East before losing 34-14 loss at Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.
How they respond to this situation remains to be seen.
"It is tough," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "You can't process what (Andy Reid) is going through. All you can do is feel the sorrow for his family. There's no possible way to understand it.
"Coach Reid is in all of our thoughts all of the time. It is definitely not something that you can ignore and move on. It's going to be tough to balance everything, but coach Reid wants us to be strong and wants us to continue going. That's what we're going to try to do even though we're doing it with a heavy heart."
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