It has been said that sports doesn't build character, but reveals it. Events like those of this week do the same thing. This city has opened its heart to Reid and his family. National pundits like to say that Philadelphia and its sports fans are missing that vital organ, but it is a big, glorious, complicated, funny heart, and it breaks at the idea of a mother and father losing a son, brothers and sisters losing their big brother.
Reid and his family spent most of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in a cocoon of mourning, but the passion and compassion reached them. And then there were the signs in the yards along the way back to football camp.
"I don't have words for all of it," Reid said Wednesday.
At some point, and it could arrive as quickly as Sept. 9 when the Eagles open their NFL season in Cleveland, Reid is going to be criticized again. There are no lifetime passes on that one. Fans will call for his firing again, eventually. It is part of the deal, and he accepts that, even as he moves forward knowing now that even the most ardent fans can still separate the man from the football man.
"I'm not sure you ever think that many people care," Reid said. "It's a humbling feeling."
Separating life from football and keeping each in its proper compartment are a Reid specialty. He returned to work the day after his son's funeral because he felt it was the right thing to do. He wanted to address all the players and make sure they were all right, and he wanted to stand on the grass again and watch them play.
"I'm a football coach. That's what I do," Reid said. "On the football part, I've got that focused. . . . I've done it once or twice, so I've got that part down. Those earthly emotions, you have to deal with those. . . . I always tell players there are four things to go about life and how you approach it . . . eliminate distractions, create energy, fear nothing, attack everything. That's how you go about life."
It has not been a good week for eliminating distractions, but Reid's return on Wednesday should help the Eagles in that regard. They can lose themselves in the routine of training camp even as they sleep in the same dormitory complex where Garrett Reid died. There is an exhibition opener Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field, and that reminder of the real games to come always throws a switch on the intensity level at camp. It is like a racehorse that hears a starting gate ring open across a distance and begins to gallop involuntarily.
Some of the players on Wednesday talked of dedicating the season to Garrett Reid and to their head coach, pledging much more than their best effort to make it a success. That's an understandable sentiment, but those words are too easy because finding the right ones and the right balance is so difficult.
Fans have said out loud that it would be a positive outcome from a terrible situation if the death of Garrett Reid served as a motivational tool and the football team played better this season, as if death and football are of equal weight, one able to offset the other. Andy Reid, it turns out, doesn't think so.
"That's not something I would ever ask. That's not how I operate," he said of the players taking his burden as a rallying point. "I hope this will be a rallying cry for those people that have had the same struggles, that they can overcome, and it will make them stronger, and for the families that hurt. Garrett's at peace. It's the family that has to work through it."
The coach came back to the football fields on Wednesday. He is working through this week the only way he knows. It is one step at a time across those green fields in the hot sun, seeing not only your own shadow on the grass but the shadows of those not there.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @bobfordsports. Read his blog, "Post Patterns," at www.philly.com/postpatterns.