Reflecting on Reid's tragedy; nuggets from Week 2 of my tour
In Garrett Reid's tragic death, it's clear how respected Andy Reid is league-wide
New regimes bringing change to Raiders, Bucs; Jags trying to get Gabbert on track
My thoughts on T.O.'s tryout with the Seahawks; Ten Things I Think I Think; more
Black crepe paper hangs over the column this morning. Garrett Reid, Andy Reid's oft-troubled 29-year-old son, was found dead in his Lehigh University dorm room at Eagles' training camp Sunday morning.
We don't know what happened yet, and I won't speculate. But Garrett, who had drug problems and served time in jail for them, was working with the Eagles' strength coaches, helping players with their conditioning, trying to get his life together. His brother, Britt, who also has a history of drug problems, was on the comeback trail too, and both were getting some coaching experience to try to help.
There aren't many people around the league who don't think highly of Andy Reid. I can't think of one, honestly. I was in Atlanta with the Falcons Sunday when the news spread, and one of his former co-workers in the coaching business, Dirk Koetter, was visibly upset when he walked off the practice field in the morning. "I can't get the sick feeling out of my stomach,'' he said. Reid's players, former and current, felt the same way. "Stay strong and we LOVE you coach,'' Michael Vick tweeted.
Vick has a special bond with Reid, obviously. Three years ago, Vick was radioactive after his dogfighting conviction, and Reid and owner Jeffrey Lurie took a chance on him. Did you know Garrett and Britt Reid had something to do with Vick's signing? True story.
Andy Reid learned something valuable from his sons' jail terms -- particularly Britt's. He learned there are three phases that inmates who are successful in avoiding a return trip to jail go through. Phase one is blaming everyone else. Phase two is admitting that it's your own fault. Phase three is the vow to yourself that you hate jail, that you're going to avoid the behavior that got you in jail in the first place, and you'll never return.
When Reid met with Vick as he was trying to determine whether to offer him a contract, the most important factor to him was whether Vick was in that third phase. His sons stressed that Vick would always be grateful to the Eagles for giving him a chance to reclaim his life and he'd work daily to show they made the right decision.
The Eagles didn't sign Vick because Reid's sons urged their father to do it. But if you know Andy Reid, you know he listened to his kids, and their feelings became a piece of a very large puzzle. Three years later, Garrett and Britt have been right on the money on Vick. Small consolation for a family that has to bury a son Tuesday. So sad.
Headlines of the day, before I get to Week 2 of the SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp Tour:
Terrell Eldorado Owens works out for the Seahawks today. He's 38, he hasn't played in the league since 2010, he's apparently blown his football fortune, and today just might be last call at the T.O. Saloon. Seattle's giving him a look -- nothing more, at least for now -- because the Seahawks have heard he has been humbled and is in great shape.
Is there a deal in the works for Jonathan Vilma? ESPN reported around midnight Sunday that the NFL has offered Vilma, who's suspended for a year as part of the sanctions against the Saints, a reduction of his ban -- from 16 to eight games if he drops his lawsuit against the league. I'd heard the NFL also wanted Vilma to admit some culpability in the case, but that he's steadfast against that -- as are the other three players who've been suspended. The other three aren't part of a proposed deal yet, but ESPN reported they could be if the Vilma deal gets done.
Football started last night, and the replacement officials were, at best, shaky. I keep saying this is a recipe for disaster, asking Arena League officials, small-college (and lower) and ex-major-college officials to work the real games. The 17-10 Saints' win over Arizona was the first preseason game, and the real ones start in 30 days. You'd figure the league would want its best crew on the first nationally televised game of the summer, so the performance of this crew seemed a bad harbinger. Ref Craig Ochoa got the coin flip wrong. After saying New Orleans won the toss and deferred, he got on his mike and said, "Correction, Arizona won the toss.'' Yikes.
We landed on Mars at 1:33 this morning. Thought I'd throw you a change-up. You know, just to see if you're paying attention.
Now off to the camps. I have a few thoughts on the new Browns owner, Jimmy Haslam, after speaking with him on Sunday, and I'll use them in Tuesday's column.
Monday: San Francisco (Santa Clara, Calif., 49er training facility).
Three football nuggets: Niners return 11 starters to NFC's top-rated defense. Doubt that's ever happened in free agency era. "I'd be surprised if a top-five defense ever brought all its starters back,'' said GM Trent Baalke ... Randy Moss had a good practice, beating Perrish Cox and Carlos Rogers in one-on-one drills. "Defensive coordinators will be dumb if they treat him like the Moss of Tennessee a couple years ago,'' Rogers told me. "He's got a lot left.'' ... Niners think rookie back LaMichael James could be the quick difference-maker they didn't have in offense last year. I agree.
How Kyle Williams turned a nightmare upside down.
I meet Williams, who had the two-muffed-punt nightmare in the NFC Championship Game last January, and there's no mistaking his allegiances: He was wearing a Chicago White Sox hat and Jordan T-shirt, and underneath his friendly and respectful exterior, he came across as being Chicago tough. I asked where he got the ability to cope with the crushing weight of his role in the Niners losing out on a trip to the Super Bowl, and it turns out it has much to do with his dad, Kenny, the general manager of the White Sox for the past 12 years.
"Growing up in Chicago,'' Kyle said, "I'd ride with my dad to White Sox games, and he'd have sports radio on. Some people would praise the job he was doing, and sometimes he'd be getting torn apart. I'd look over at him driving. He'd have no emotion. It didn't affect him one way or the other. His attitude was, 'No matter what you do, positive or negative, you'll get criticized.' His whole professional demeanor taught me a lot. I was a sponge. I soaked it in, all of it.''
I get Kenny Williams on the phone and relay what his son said.
There's a pause. Three, four seconds.
"That gives me chills, honestly,'' Kenny Williams said. "He never told me that. That's ... something I appreciate."
Kyle was 12 when his dad was named general manager of the White Sox. "When I got the job in Chicago, there was a lot of, 'He just got the job because he's black.' Some tough things happened. We had 'n-----' spray-painted on the side of the house.''
Young Kyle soaked it in, and the toughness he saw from his father showed up last Jan. 22. As the backup punt-returner pressed into duty because of an injury to Ted Ginn Jr., Williams dropped back to return a Giants' punt with 11 minutes left and San Francisco up 14-10. The punt bounced funny and nicked his leg, and after a replay challenge confirmed the muff, the Giants got the ball at the Niner 29 and scored the go-ahead touchdown. In overtime, fielding a punt on a bounce, Williams had the ball punched loose and the Giants recovered at the Niner 24. Two minutes later Lawrence Tynes' field goal won it.
Kenny Williams was sitting in the stands watching the game. I asked him if his heart broke when he saw the misplays. "It did. It did. But as much as it hurt, I thought, 'OK, here's an opportunity to see what my son's made of.' ''
"The first one took an odd bounce and got me,'' Kyle said last week. "I didn't feel it at the time, but it got me. The second one, I saw a seam, tried to make a play and 57 [Jacquian Williams] got a paw on it. After the game, I was crushed. But honestly, I was more worried about my teammates than anything else because we worked so hard to get that far.''
Kyle Williams stood up and faced the media music after that game. He took the blame. His father stood nearby and watched him. "As much as my heart sank when those plays happened,'' Kenny Williams said, "my pride soared when I watched him answer each question, look his questioner in the eyes and accept total responsibility.''
When they met after the game -- "even before I hugged him,'' dad said -- he looked at Kyle and said, "How are you going to come back from this? You man enough to handle this?''
"Absolutely,'' Kyle said.
The days that followed brought Twitter threats of harm to Williams and his family. (Sound familiar?) Kyle said he wasn't concerned about that as much as what his teammates thought. To a man, they were supportive. Kyle Williams looked for averted eyes from his teammates, heads shaking at him, anything. He knew he'd probably cost his team a shot at the Super Bowl. He never saw, or heard, anything suggesting disloyalty -- and if he did, he wouldn't have blamed them.
So now he's back at camp, with a tougher road to a roster spot than last year. The 49ers lost wideout Josh Morgan in free agency to Washington, but they've gained Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, and Ginn returns. Williams (20 receptions, 12.1 yards per catch last year) is in the mix and should make the roster if the Niners keep six receivers, but nothing is guaranteed. "I've come to terms with it,'' he said. "It's plays I made, not the player I am. I think they know they can trust me.''
Do they? Loyalty to a well-liked and respected teammate is one thing. But this is a dog-eat-punt-muffer business. I asked Jim Harbaugh: Can you put Kyle Williams back there again to field a big punt?
"We like Kyle Williams; he is one of us,'' Harbaugh said. "The folks who want to continue bringing this up -- this is not going to be a continuing story. It isn't with us. We will not allow the media to hang an albatross around his neck. He is on the inside of the team looking out.''