Andy Reid hears familiar cheer on Afghanistan tour

Eagles coach Andy Reid visits with airmen at Ramstein Air Base in Frankfurt, Germany, on a stop before going to Afghanistan.
Eagles coach Andy Reid visits with airmen at Ramstein Air Base in Frankfurt, Germany, on a stop before going to Afghanistan.
Posted: July 03, 2010

Even in war-torn Afghanistan, 7,000 miles from Eagles-obsessed Philadelphia, Andy Reid can't avoid a familiar cheer.

The Eagles' coach has been traveling with three other NFL coaches, including former assistant Brad Childress, on a USO tour that has spread goodwill to soldiers stationed and fighting overseas.

After a one-day delay, induced by a bird of another flock, Reid and his colleagues finally reached the Bagram Air Base in the Parwan province of Afghanistan early Friday morning. The group toured the base - and upon exiting the POW prison, Reid was serenaded with a chant that is often heard on autumn Sundays at Lincoln Financial Field.

"Three soldiers were chanting 'E-A-G-L-E-S,' " Reid said by cell phone. "They brought out their jerseys, hats and flags. You can tell they live for football and when the season comes."

Later in the day, after visiting with the troops and sitting in a Humvee simulator, Reid went to dinner with soldiers from Philadelphia. The conversation could have taken place in any local tavern, from Bustleton to Broomall.

"We talked about cheesesteaks and back home," Reid said. "They asked about the [Donovan McNabb] trade. But they were upbeat about the coming season."

Reid said that he and the three other coaches - the Panthers' John Fox, the Bengals' Marvin Lewis, and the Vikings' Childress - have actually discussed very little football on the trip. But Reid has had to deal with the ongoing drama surrounding Michael Vick.

Although he has not been directly connected to the crime, the Eagles quarterback has been mired in a shooting that occurred outside a Virginia Beach nightclub that was hosting his 30th birthday party.

The Eagles, according to a statement from last week, are still "in the process of gathering all the facts" on the shooting and will "not have any comment" until they have completed their investigation.

Still, there have been cries from some media and fans for the Eagles to cut ties with Vick.

"Nothing has been decided," Reid said. "I'm standing by the statement the team released."

Eagles sources said Thursday that the team was sticking by Vick at this juncture unless further details emerge. Reid declined to say if the Eagles were waiting to make a decision until he returns from his tour. He expects to be back in the United States sometime early next week.

Virginia Beach police do not have any suspects and have not made any arrests. Vick issued a denial Thursday in a statement released by his lawyers, saying that he was not involved in the shooting that injured a codefendant in his dogfighting case.

"I have spoken to Michael, and I've looked into the situation," Reid said. "I'm aware of the things that are happening, and I'll continue to be kept abreast about any recent developments."

Reid departed for the USO tour earlier this week only days after the Virginia Beach shooting. The coaches first landed in Frankfurt, Germany, where they were escorted to Ramstein Air Base. They visited the military wounded at the base hospital - Landstuhl Regional Medical Center - and signed autographs.

That evening, they departed for Afghanistan in a C-17 military cargo plane, but had to circle back to Ramstein after a bird hit the aircraft. Reid was seated up front in the cockpit and was teasingly blamed for the incident because of his affiliation with birds of a different sort. The other coaches started calling him, "Captain Eagle."

"I've been getting killed about the bird," Reid said.

A day later, the coaches finally left for Afghanistan. Fox replaced Reid in the cockpit.

"I got voted off that island," Reid said.

Reid wasn't sure how much longer he would be in Afghanistan. He wasn't trying to be coy - like his in-season habit of keeping team information in-house.

"We really don't know," Reid said. "I'm not trying to be secretive. They don't tell us much. I didn't know we were going to be in Germany that long. It's why you have to be flexible."

When the tour finally landed in Afghanistan, Childress was treated to a surprise as he shook the hands of soldiers that greeted the plane. The last hand he shook belonged to his son, Andrew, a U.S. Marine stationed in the southern provides.

Reid said it was an emotional moment for both father and son.

"I wish everyone could experience this," said Reid, whose father served in the Navy during World War II. "The soldiers here fight so that we can have our freedoms and have the opportunity to play and coach in the NFL."


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.

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