Last updated: February 16. 2013 3:33PM - 241 Views

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Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Andy Reid returned to his job fresh off suffering the most difficult loss of his life.

He came back to lead the Eagles a day after burying his son.

"I'm a football coach," Reid said.

He is also a human being with real emotions.

Philadelphia fans tend to forget that, and Reid tries hard to hide it in the name of professionalism as he shields his personality from the public.

After 13 seasons coaching the Eagles, nobody knows what he's like.

But they all remembered what it's like to have common compassion through the death of 29-year-old Garrett Reid. Andy's oldest son was working with the Eagles strength and conditioning staff when he was found dead in his Lehigh University dorm room last week at Philadelphia's training camp home.

Reid said overwhelming support from Eagles fans around the city gave him the strength to get through it.

And when Reid thanked them for that through a public announcement on the scoreboard during Thursday's preseason-opening victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the same Philadelphia fans who called for the coach's head last season stood and chanted his name.

"I'd like to thank the fans for their spirit," Reid said, "from me and my family. Above and beyond. That stuff is so humbling. I take that as a compliment to my son and the family. I appreciate every bit of it. We feel the love."

From the city of brotherly love.

Philadelphia fans can be crass, if not merciless, especially Eagles fans.

They've booed Santa Claus, taunted Michael Irvin's career-ending injury and viciously turned on their own time and again.

But in times of need, they are faithfully generous with their warmth.

"In these kinds of times, that's important," Reid said.

This is an extremely trying time for Reid.

He suggested the drug addiction both his sons battled may have had something to do with Garrett's death.

"He cared about people," Andy Reid said of his late son. "He just got caught up in a bad situation, terrible situation, that affects a lot of people in this country. It's like fighting a grizzly bear.

"It's hard to win."

But through Garrett's death, it seems Andy Reid and his football city won each other over.

"The love, the outpouring was incredible," Reid said. "It just builds strength in your family. People care.

"I didn't expect that at all."

Who could have expected this?

The normally stoic head coach of the Eagles, who's spent more than a decade deflecting attempts to pry into his personal life, stood up and opened up some of his soul.

"I'm a humble man standing before you," Reid said Wednesday upon making his return to the Eagles from a brief bereavement period. "I'm not sure you ever think that many people care."

And even Eagles fans who seemed to care little for Reid as their coach in the past opened their hearts to him over his tragic loss.

"When everybody starting chanting Andy's name," Eagles center Jason Kelce said, "I got goosebumps."

There have been plenty of bumps along the road for Philadelphia fans and their football coach.

But in a time of tragic sorrow, they found compassion can be soothing.

Paul Sokoloski is a Times Leader sports columnist. You may reach him at 970-7109 or email him at psokoloski@timesleader.com.

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