For a while, Jeffrey Lurie said he was like everyone else.

The Eagles owner didn't know whether the crisis that struck Andy Reid's family would force his coach and executive vice president of football operations to step away from his job.

Lurie hoped Reid would stay on, but as a father himself, he would have fully understood, had Reid chosen not to.

"You just don't know," Lurie said yesterday of what might have gone through Reid's mind after his two oldest sons were arrested in February. "When someone is having a family crisis in some way, you don't know how things will continue.

"He's a terrific coach and a terrific guy to work with. You just want to give him as much support and be as flexible as you can, so that he can attack the problems the way he needed to attack them."

Reid took about a month and half away from his full-time duties with the Eagles to focus on his family concerns.

"It was emotionally trying, because I personally feel such compassion for Andy," Lurie said. "He's such a nice man.

"Not only is he a great coach, the most successful the Eagles have ever had, but he's such a nice, warm and genuine man. You don't want to see him have to suffer with family problems or personal problems in any way.

"You just spend a lot of time with compassion and concern."

From a football standpoint, Reid's break did not come at an ideal time, because it happened just as the Eagles were gearing up for the talent evaluation for Saturday's NFL draft.

But Lurie said the work of general manager Tom Heckert and the scouting and coaching staffs, with input from Reid, has the Birds well prepared.

"Is it going to make winning more difficult?" Lurie said of Reid's dealing with family issues while running the team. "Not at all.

"I think Andy is as focused as I've ever seen him. If you ask him his analysis of a player we have slated for the sixth round, he's fully watched the guy.

"His input, his brain power is all there. He's raring to go and fully focused. He's such a hard worker and so responsible."

And if Reid had walked away?

"You go forward and you make the best decisions you can make if that were to ever happen," Lurie said. "[Reid] is not going to coach forever.

"No one is going to play forever either. So until we figure out how to make bionic coaches or bionic players, you're constantly having to figure how to sustain success in this league." *