BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Dealt an unimaginable loss when his eldest son, Garrett, was found dead in his training-camp dormitory room early Sunday, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid told owner Jeffrey Lurie he intends to begin healing by returning to coach this week.
Reid's reappearance could come as soon as Thursday night's Eagles preseason opener in Philadelphia against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Although Reid was grieving, he was inspiring others in the organization with his personal strength, Lurie said. Lurie called the 54-year-old, father of five, "a rock-solid man" struggling to cope.
"Today is one of life's tough days," Lurie said. "I've watched Andy Reid try so hard with his family over the years ..."
With that, Lurie choked back tears while relaying his conversation with Reid. Lurie spoke with reporters during a news briefing before the Eagles took the field for a somber afternoon practice at Lehigh Univerity overseen by assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
Lurie insisted Reid tried his best to be a good father to Garrett, who had a troubled past that included drug addiction, two stints in prison and court-ordered drug rehabilitation.
Reid took a six-week leave of absence during the 2007 offseason to be with his sons, Garrett and Britt, after both were arrested the same January day that year. He traveled out of state to participate in drug treatment programs with them and regularly visited them in prison.
Despite mega-million salaries paid NFL head coaches (Reid will make $5.5 million this year in the next-to-last-year of his contract), the countless hours away from home and sometimes sleeping in the office can take a brutal toll on families.
Still, Reid had Garrett assisting the team's strength and conditioning staff - until the 29-year-old was found dead in his dormitory room by campus police at 7:20 a.m. The funeral will be held Tuesday in Broomall, Pa.
"This is a hard one," Lurie said. "You see a man that really cares. And sometimes ... as he and I discussed, life throws you curveballs."
Reid told Lurie he intends "to hit that curveball out of the park on the field and off the field. That's the message he wanted me to have. In this moment of terrible pain, he's reaching out to all of us.
"He feels bad that he is not going to be at practice today or probably tomorrow. At the same time this is a father fully grieving," Lurie added.
A very difficult situation
Garrett Reid was sentenced to 23 months in prison for smashing up another motorist's car, while he was under the influence of heroin. Meanwhile Britt Reid got 22 months plus probation. Garrett was sentenced in July 2008 to two years in a state drug rehabilitation program after being caught with 89 prescription pills inside his rectum at the Montgomery County Prison.
According to court documents, he told a judge in July 2007: "I liked being a drug dealer. (But) I don't want to die doing drugs. I don't want to be that kid who was the son of the head coach of the Eagles, who was spoiled and on drugs and OD'd and just faded into oblivion."
Michael Vick, whom Reid granted a second chance after the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback served an 18-month federal prison sentence for his involvement in an illegal dogfighting ring, reacted to the news after practice.
"This is a very difficult situation for us all to deal with," said Vick, who's entering his fourth season with the Eagles. "Our thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to coach Reid, Tammy and his entire family.
"Coach has always been a rock for us. We're going to lean on him, be there for him and stay strong for him until he can come back to lead us on."
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman broke the tragic news at a 9:45 a.m. briefing, then left the media tent sobbing. He collapsed into the embrace of team trainer Rick Burkholder.
"We've been with Andy for a long time," Roseman said. "He's always been strong for us. We're going to be strong for him right now. As a father and a friend, we're all hurting."
Lehigh University chief of police Edward Shupp said Garrett Reid was found "unresponsive" after a 911 call and attempts to revive him failed.
"The individual, Garrett Reid, was deceased upon the officer's arrival," Shupp said. "There were no suspicious activities."
Coroner Zachary Lysek, who pronounced Reid dead at the scene, said he is conducting an ongoing investigation at the request of Lehigh police.
No one could answer the larger questions:
What happened? And how does a father and one of the game's winningest coach's balance wrenching personal loss with returning to coach a team with Super Bowl-winning expectations?
For former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who lost his 18-year-old son in a 2005 suicide, coping meant a return to coaching the Colts a week later.
Coping for then Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, now head coach of the Miami Dolphins, meant returning to the sideline for the next game after the January 2012 death of his 21-year-old son, whose body was pulled from the icy Fox River in Oshkosh, Wis.
Dungy told an Athletes in Action Super Bowl XL breakfast audience in January 2006 his biggest regret in his life is that when he saw his son during Thanksgiving holiday, he didn't hug him. James Dungy died Dec. 22, 2005.
Dungy took a week off to be with his family, handing his duties off to quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.
There is no coach's handbook for how to handle the loss of a loved one, only what feels right.
"Any father who loses a son in any walk of life, it's a terrible tragedy," said Jay P. Granat, psychotherapist, author and founder of StayintheZone.com. "These NFL coaches earn their living by teaching players to manage adversity and be resilient.
"The demands of the job as an NFL coach take a lot of months, long hours, stress. And you're under the microscope. It can take a dad away from his family, and there can be some absentee issues that could have an effect on a grown child."
In retrospect, there might have been nothing Reid could do.
"People who are involved with drugs, the recidivism rate is high," Granat said. "It's an addiction that's hard to treat. They often have other issues, like underlying severe depression and anxiety. They can be doing OK and something can happen in their life where they stop taking medicine and they're at risk for relapsing."
By NFL standards, Reid has been a success, with a 136-90-1 record including reaching five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl XXXIX loss to New England. But Eagles fans, longing for a title, have called for his firing.
"The thing with Andy is he's strong and rock solid, but deep down he's a teddy bear," Lurie said. "It is why he's so effective. Is he perfect? No. But that combination of strength and tenderness is very, very special.
"Myself and the players and all of us who are around him, we just have to be supportive."
Former Eagles president Joe Banner spoke to Reid Sunday, but there wasn't much to say.
"I reached out with Andy and tried to be supportive, but what can you do?" Banner told USA TODAY Sports. "Garrett's had a tough struggle. He seemed to be in a good place, which makes it all the more shocking.
"If you talk to the players, they liked him, enjoyed him and he was doing a great job in the strength and conditioning work. He seemed like he got his life back together and was doing something he was really enjoying and doing it really well. And everybody was supporting him...
"It's just incredibly sad. For Andy and Tammy, I can't imagine what it must be like for them."