Marcus Hayes: Fans show Andy they care

Posted: August 10, 2012

HIS SONS nearby, his team captain at his right hand, Andy Reid stood at midfield as the assemblage honored the memory of his firstborn.

The crowd at Lincoln Financial Field stood and applauded Reid, who had buried Garrett, 29, just 2 days earlier.

Michael Vick attended him as Reid wagged his cap appreciatively; once at waist level; then, as the applause continued, again, at shoulder height.

Even Mama Reid was there. Tammy Reid looked as strong as an oak, in her personalized Eagles jersey.

Waves of love and respect swept through the Linc, love and respect intended for the gruff, aloof, often embattled coach.

“We feel the love,” Reid said afterward.

“It was a surreal feeling,” Vick said. “We all know that Garrett was up there in the stadium tonight with us. He will be with us for the rest of the season, and for as long as this organization exists.

“We’re pleased to have another angel in the sky who can look over this team.”

But within 30 minutes, it was the same old thing.

Reid burned a timeout with an odd challenge on Pittsburgh’s opening possession, one that questioned what down it was. Reid then burned a second timeout just two plays into their first possession — plays that are scripted.

Failed challenges and wasted timeouts have become the hallmark of Reid’s shortcomings in his 13 seasons.

This time, Reid didn’t get booed.

After the called timeout, a message flashed on the stadium’s video board, along with a family portrait. The message expressed the Reids’ profound gratitude at the outpouring of sympathy following Garrett Reid’s death Sunday at training camp.

Then the huge screens filled with Reid’s profile, shot live on the field.

The crowd erupted.

It began a brief chant: “Andy! Andy!”

So, maybe it wasn’t the same old thing.

“I’d like to thank the fans on behalf of my family,” Reid said. “Really, above and beyond.”

“It was awesome,” said linebacker DeMeco Ryans. “It was awesome to hear the crowd, you know, the way they stood up for coach Reid and just acknowledged him and praised him. It was good to see that we have the whole town behind us.”

It might last all season.

It might last the rest of Reid’s career.

Or, it might last until Reid wastes that first timeout.

Reid’s players, wearing Garrett Reid’s initials on their helmets, played like the distracted mess they were at practice Sunday and Monday.

The defense was pliant.

The offense lacked rhythm.

“I think everybody was a little bit nervous today with everything going around,” said running back LeSean McCoy. “The whole week, we’ve been battling through everything; the situation that just happened … I think once the team settles down a little bit and lets time pass, we’ll be fine.”

The Eagles won, 24-23, with a late field goal, but the first and second units were lousy. The third and fourth teams played well enough to come back, and that delighted the starters, who, at the end of it, showered Reid with congratulations more fitting to a playoff game.

Thursday night, execution didn’t matter.

Compassion ruled.

Reid was intent on making as little a spectacle of himself as possible. He snuck onto the field, sons Britt and Spencer in tow, as the Steelers swarmed from their tunnel. The half-filled stadium focused on Thursday night’s pretend enemy.

Having made it to the bench area largely undetected, Reid accepted his communications belt and headset, stuffed that betraying red challenge flag in his hip pocket and began his pregame routine.

Britt and Spencer, in green shirts and black shorts, joshed and glad-handed players and friends and coaches.

The boys remained at the south end of the bench area as the moment of silence for Garrett was requested, then observed. They remained there for the national anthem.

Both are involved with Temple’s football program; Spencer, a running back, Britt a coach, a job that seemed unthinkable for him 5 years ago.

Five years ago, the world learned of the drug problems that engulfed Garrett and Britt Reid. Both spent time in jail for drug-related crimes. Garrett went twice.

Britt straightened out quicker, and, it appears, better. He was married this summer.

Garrett, meanwhile, continued to struggle. He was at Lehigh in an unofficial capacity, as an aide to the strength and conditioning coaches. Garrett and Britt had been fixtures around the team for years, but not in a professional capacity.

Over the previous 2 years Garrett had remade his body into something imposing, something solid.

Or not so solid.

Garrett Reid’s death marked the end of his battle with drugs, Andy Reid said.

Reid buried his heir Tuesday, an off day for his team, which, en masse, joined almost 1,000 other mourners.

The Steelers were not among them. Instead, they sent a delegation to Reid’s office in the locker room before Thursday night’s game that included owners Dan and Art Rooney, head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert.

It was just Reid’s second day at work since his son died.

Reid returned to the team Wednesday morning and supervised the walk-through that precedes all games, which is normal.

He then spent more than 20 minutes in front of an empathetic press corps addressing nearly every question that could be asked about him, his family and his job. He expressed pain.

Humility.

For the first time in nearly 14 years, Reid allowed his fans a glimpse at his warm and generous heart, at his self-deprecating nature, at his deep commitment to team and to family, at his even deeper commitment to God.

For that, the fans stood and applauded Reid.

For that … and, of course, for Garrett.

Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com

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