BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid left the team to deal with a shocking family tragedy that happened Sunday morning at training camp at Lehigh University.
Garrett Reid, the oldest of Andy and Tammy Reid's five children, was found dead in his room at Lehigh's Sayre Park dorms. The 29-year-old, whose troubled history included drug addiction and jail, had been helping the team's strength and conditioning staff during camp.
"Today is one of life's tough days," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said during an emotional press conference at Lehigh on Sunday afternoon. "Andy's a rock-solid man, but I think what makes him a great coach is his combination of compassion, feeling and strength. Today, he exhibited it all.
"It's unimaginable, the pain. Most of us have suffered tragedy in our lives, but losing a son, losing a child, is unimaginable. He's rock-solid, but deep down he's a teddy bear, and right now he's in terrible pain."
Lehigh University Police Department Chief Edward Shupp said Sunday at the practice fields that officers responded to a 911 call at 7:20 a.m. and found Reid dead in his room. The cause of death will be determined after an investigation by Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek.
Shupp said there were "no suspicious activities." Police did not say who made the 911 call.
Reid left the team Sunday to be with his family, which also includes sons Britt and Spencer, and daughters Crosby and Drew Ann. No timetable was given for his return, but Lurie said he expected Reid to be back with the team this week, possibly in time for the Eagles' preseason opener Thursday against Pittsburgh at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Andy is so dedicated," Lurie said. "He loves his players. He loves his coaches. He treasures these practices. He feels so bad that he's intefering with their success today, tomorrow. At the same time, this is a father grieving.
"As he and I discussed, you gain from loss, you gain from tragedy. I always think that there's no way today that I would own an NFL team if I hadn't lost my dad when I was 9, and it was shocking. It made me stronger. There are choices to be made when tragedy happens: You can become stronger and even more focused and learn from it and treat live as a challenge, or you can bow down. Andy is somebody, he said to me, 'I'm going to hit that curveball and hit it out of the park, on the field and off the field.' That's the message that he wanted me to have."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement.
"We are deeply saddened by the news about Garrett Reid. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andy, Tammy and their family. We will support them and the Eagles in any way we can through this difficult time."
Despite the tragic events, the Eagles went through with their normal routine Sunday. They participated in a morning walkthrough and returned in the afternoon for a practice with shorts, helmets and shells (small shoulder pads). Before they began the workout, they gathered at midfield for a prayer and broke into applause at the end.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg supervised the practices and will continue to run the team until Reid returns.
"It's been a tough day for us and I can only imagine how tough it's been for Andy," said Mornhinweg, whose son Skylar is a freshman at the University of Florida. "But as you know, Andy is a rock. He's given us support for many, many years and now we're going to support him now. It's as simple as that."
The players are also supporting each other.
The team gathered for a prayer before both practices Sunday and then appointed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, wide receiver Jason Avant and quarteback Michael Vick to issue statements to the media.
"This is something that is hard to deal with," Vick said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with coach Reid and his family. We're going to stay strong for coach Reid until he comes back."
This marks the second time in his 14-year tenure as Eagles coach that Reid has taken a leave of absence because of a family issue.
In 2007, he left the team for a month during the offseason after Garrett and Britt were arrested and convicted of drug-related charges. Garrett admitted that he was addicted to heroin. At the time, a judge compared Andy and Tammy Reid's home to a "drug emporium."
In 2009, while living in a halfway house after serving a 23-month jail sentence, Garrett Reid was sent back to jail after failing a random drug test.
In recent years, however, the brothers had seemingly overcome their problems. Britt is a graduate assistant coach at Temple University. The two also had befriended quite a few Eagles players, including wide receiver Chad Hall, tight end Clay Harbor and tackle Todd Herremans.
"Garrett was always smiling and laughing no matter what," Hall said via Twitter. "He was very caring and selfless. An overall great person. You will NOT be forgotten!"
Joe Banner, who stepped down in June as the Eagles president, said in a statement that he knew Garrett since he was a teenager.
"Words cannot express my sadness upon hearing the tragic news this morning," he said.
Donovan McNabb, who played quarterback for Reid's Eagles from 1999-2009, also issued a statement.
"I was both shocked and saddened when I heard the news this morning of Garrett's passing. During my time (in Philadelphia), both Garrett and Britt spent a lot of time around the football team and I know how much Andy loves them," McNabb said.
"I spent a lot of time with Andy and his family; we had a great friendship. ... We still do. My heart goes out to Andy, Tammy and the rest of the Reid family. I cannot imagine what they are feeling right now. God be with them."
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