Reid and his former players gear up for his return

Posted: September 19, 2013

The veterans on the Eagles insist they are playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night - not Andy Reid.

But there will be an adjustment when they look to the visitors sideline and see their former coach clad in red instead of black.

"Seeing him in red, it just doesn't look right," wide receiver Jason Avant joked. "It will definitely be a weird thing at the beginning of the game. But once the game goes on, you've got to understand the mind-set of football players."

They worry about football, Avant insisted. And this is what Reid said, too, even though it will be his first time on the opponent's side at Lincoln Financial Field.

"We'll be able to find that sideline, I think," Reid said in a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters. "We'll be all right."

Reid had his one-liners ready Tuesday. When asked what is different in his new coaching job, he said, "Barbecue instead of cheesesteaks."

Asked what he misses most about Philadelphia, he jokingly said the media. Yet he did not want to delve too deeply into the past, saying it's easier to do that when there is not a game in two days.

Eagles center Jason Kelce said he doesn't worry about the Reid story line. Safety Kurt Coleman said it's more an angle for reporters to explore than a concern for the players. That was Reid's general sentiment, shifting specific questions about his return back to the game.

"It's not very fluffy, but that's what's real," Reid said. "You have X amount of hours here playing a good team, and you better be ready to do it."

Reid is studying opposing players with whom he is very familiar. That could give him an advantage in preparation. Avant said it could indeed help Reid, but Reid is not the one playing the game.

"I don't think it hurts you," Reid said of knowing the Eagles well. "You still have to go play. When we're done with the game, I can probably share that with you."

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said there has been conversation this week about specific Eagles and their strengths. But there is not as much carryover from last season with coach Chip Kelly's new system.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said what Reid knows about the Birds is available to anyone on film. Kelly said Reid's advantage might be in understanding the personnel, but that's where it ends.

"The scheme defensively has changed. The scheme offensively has changed. The scheme [on] special teams has changed," Kelly said. "So maybe from how fast a guy is to some of those things from a physical standpoint, I know he's probably got an intimate knowledge from the guys on the team."

The Eagles' practice facility is adorned with homages to great moments during Reid's 14 years and of Eagles who played for Reid. Kelly said it's impossible to walk around and not understand the influence of the franchise's most successful coach. Kelly spoke to Reid after accepting the job, but that was the last time he received advice from his predecessor.

"I told him I had big shoes to fill," Kelly said, "and he said, 'You'll do a good job,' and that was it."

Reid stays in contact with some Eagles. He text-messaged DeSean Jackson after Jackson's first game. Reid's wife, Tammy, recently helped Coleman pick out an engagement ring. Quarterback Michael Vick exchanges messages with the coach, although he won't speak to Reid until Thursday.

"I'll definitely find some time to shake his hand and say a couple of words to him. But we have to play a football game," Vick said. "I don't think on the inside or outside we can get caught up in the emotional aspect of it."

It's hard to dismiss the emotional aspect, though. Reid gave many players in the Eagles locker room an opportunity in the NFL. Some consider him a father figure. And Reid spent 14 years in Philadelphia, longer than any stint in his coaching career. It's where he raised his family.

"I haven't had the chance to look back. Everything is looking forward," Reid said. "I can tell you my time there, I loved my time there. I worked for a great owner, worked for a great organization, and I worked in a great city. I loved every minute of it."

Reid said he doesn't think about how he will be received but said Philadelphia has "a great fan base." The players who played for Reid hope he receives a positive reaction from the crowd on Thursday night.

 "He definitely deserves that, bringing a winner back to Philadelphia," Avant said. "Even though his last couple of years wasn't the best, he still created a winning culture here."


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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