INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – More than 30 years ago, football took priority over family for Frank Reich.
It’s a decision he always has regretted, and one he won’t make again.
Reich handled his usual Friday morning responsibilities, but then headed out of town to be with his family prior to the full-scale practice. His brother-in-law passed away.
“Obviously we’re very close, especially with my sister,’’ Reich said on a conference call. “I just need to be there for her.’’
He will return to town tonight and travel with the team for Sunday’s season finale at Jacksonville.
Reich met with the team’s Leadership Council Friday morning and informed it of his plans. He also shared the overriding reason.
“I told our Leadership Committee this morning how 32 years ago when I was playing for the Bills my grandfather passed away and I didn’t make it to the funeral and I wasn’t there for my mom,’’ he said. “I literally have regretted that since then and I always said I would do everything possible not to have that happen again.’’
Reich routinely stresses the importance of family to his players.
“This is something that carries over to the team, too,’’ he said. “I tell the players, and Chris (Ballard) and I have talked about this. We have players who have family matters like this. I always stress, ‘You need to be there. Go be with your family.’’’
Owner Jim Irsay made his private jet available to ease Reich’s travel plans while allowing him to be at Friday morning’s meetings and the walk-through.
“Really missing about an hour-and-a-half of activity,’’ Reich said. “I’ll be back tonight.’’
The Leadership Council consists of 11 players who are voted on by their teammates prior to the season. They meet once a week and represent a conduit from the locker room to the head coach.
“You know how Chris (Ballard) and I are always talking about the locker room,’’ Reich said. “Those guys are the leaders. They are the locker room. It starts with those guys.’’
The meeting goes beyond simply taking the “pulse’’ of the team.
“Some of it is that,’’ Reich said. “Some of it is to hear, ‘Hey, how are we doing? Are we practicing too hard? Do we need a break? Is there schedule things we need to talk about?’
“I usually try to have a little nugget, something about leadership, some general principle. A little bit of that is always helpful as well.’’