FOXBOROUGH — At the end of their first joint practice Tuesday, the Saints and Patriots huddled between the two practice fields behind Gillette Stadium to pray for Eagles coach Andy Reid and his family after the death of Reid’s oldest son, Garrett, last weekend.
Tuesday morning, a group of Saints coaches that included acting head coach Joe Vitt, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, defensive backs coach Ken Flajole, and general manager Mickey Loomis all flew on owner Tom Benson’s private jet to Pennsylvania to attend the funeral services. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a close friend of Andy Reid, joined them.
In all, an estimated 900 people turned out, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The showing from the fraternity of NFL coaches, including 49ers head man John Harbaugh, Browns coach Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator Brad Childress, and president Mike Holmgren, and former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, was strong.
“That was special for us,” Spagnuolo said. “I know that Andy and his wife Tammy, they appreciated it. There was tremendous support down there . . . this NFL football family, it’s a family.
“There were people there from everywhere. And I think what you’re saying is Andy is so respected in this league, and when a tragedy like that hits anyone we’ve got to be there to support him. Our prayers go out to him. It was a terrific service. I think they did a great justice to everything and I’ll look forward to talking to Andy down the road.”
Originally scheduled for 1 p.m., Tuesday’s practice was pushed back an hour so the coaches could fly back in time. The session was well underway by the time they arrived, and when they got there, Belichick said they were carrying heavy hearts.
“The Saints and Mr. Benson were generous enough to let me go down with them on their plane, so I’m just glad I had an opportunity to be there and see Andy, and his family, and the Eagles organization,” Belichick said. “I have a lot of respect for them and what they do as well. They’re great friends and my heart goes out to him and our team does to the Eagles.”
There’s been a lot of positive talk lately about how rookie Chandler Jones has been performing in Patriots camp, and Saints starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who lined up against the rookie several times Tuesday, can see why the Syracuse product is drawing rave reviews.
“He definitely looks the part, man. When you see him, he’s a tall guy who’s got long arms, long legs,” Bushrod said. “Going up against him he has good power, obviously he has the speed to get around the edge, just a very shifty player. I think he’s going to have a very promising future in this league.”
Bushrod is also happy for his former teammate, Rob Ninokovich, whom he used to practice against when Ninkovich was with the Saints.
“I know what Ninkovich brings to the table, he’s a hard-nosed, high-energy guy, and he’ll bring it play in and play out,” Bushrod said. “He’s had a great career here in New England for the last three or four years, so he’s been doing a good job and I’m very proud of him. It’s good to see him a couple times in the offseason every now and then, and I’m glad he’s out here doing his thing.”
Benson, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, rocker Jon Bon Jovi, and Boston College hockey coach Jerry York were all on hand for practice . . . Coaches and players from the Mashpee High Division 4 Super Bowl winning team were also at the session to present Kraft with a ring from their victory. Kraft owns a home in the Cape Cod town . . . The Patriots announced the crowd as 14,830, another single-session camp record (for a practice not held inside Gillette Stadium) . . . Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton was able to pick off one of Tom Brady’s passes when Brady was looking for Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone. “Just reading his eyes,” Lofton said. “I know Tom is going to look you off and pump fake you, so I just stayed in my coverage and stayed disciplined.” . . . Wes Welker was whistled for a rare false start during seven-on-sevens. “Yeah, I jumped offsides, so I took a lap,” he said.