ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Broncos coach John Fox says the only change he plans to make following open-heart surgery is his vantage point.
“My goal and dream is to be there (on the sideline) before the conclusion of the season,” Fox told Denver media during a conference call Tuesday from his Charlotte, N.C., home where he’s convalescing from surgery to fix a genetic heart defect.
Fox said he was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, one that has only two leaflets instead of the usual three. The aortic valve regulates blood flow from the heart into the aorta, the major blood vessel that brings blood into the body.
He said it was discovered in 1997 when a murmur showed up in a physical while he was the Giants defensive coordinator. He was told earlier this year that surgery was necessary, but he had hoped to delay the operation until after the Super Bowl.
That changed when he almost passed out Nov. 2 while golfing in Charlotte, two days after he’d visited his cardiologist in Raleigh.
Less than 48 hours later, he had surgery and was released from the hospital Friday. He’ll soon begin his cardio rehab in North Carolina and won’t be back in Denver until he’s strong enough to fly back.
Fox said after he became dizzy on the golf course, he chipped within 2 feet for par, then lay down on the grass before being taken to a hospital where a CT scan showed “my valve was almost completely closed. I was receiving very little blood to my body.”
Fox seemed to bristle when asked if any lifestyle changes were in the offing.
“I’m very, very healthy,” he said, noting that normal hospital stays following this type of surgery is five to seven days and “I was out in four. So, this isn’t due to poor lifestyle, not being healthy, too much stress, not enough stress. This is basically something I was born with that I needed fixed. I think the quick recovery speaks to what great shape I’m in.
“This is really not a lifestyle problem. It’s just, let’s call it a birth defect. I’m not really sure what you call it. But I just came up a little short in that department.”
Fox said he’d have needed this operation even if he weren’t an NFL coach.
“Sure, there is some pressure and stress involved in coaching, but I think a lot of people out there in Denver, in this country, really around the globe, have very pressure-packed jobs.
“I think our military comes to mind maybe as one of those that I don’t think coaching compares to,” Fox said. “So, it wasn’t the pressure of coaching or any kind of thing.”
Fox’s voice sounded good during his 16-minute call, he also displayed his usual sense of humor, quick wit and charisma that players and coaches alike say they miss around team headquarters.
Fox said he was relaxing Tuesday and “just getting around to seeing the San Diego game from Sunday.” That’s the coaches’ copy. He watched the broadcast live, although he admitted there were times he had to stop watching lest his blood pressure skyrocket.
One of those moments surely was when Peyton Manning came up limping after Corey Liuget dived at his ankles in the closing minutes of Denver’s 28-20 win. The Broncos (8-1) asked the league to look at the hit, but the NFL determined it was a clean tackle.
Fox declined to confirm it was he who raised the issue with the NFL: “Well, we’re not really allowed to discuss anything to do with officiating. I can say that I did communicate with somebody at the league office,” Fox said.
Aside from his concern over his quarterback, Fox said he was feeling good and thanked everyone for their well wishes and the Broncos for allowing him “this time to get my health back, and that process is going very well. It’s been helped by everybody there in Denver, and probably first and foremost my wife, Robin.”
Fox and interim head coach Jack Del Rio speak every day by phone and Fox said he’s texted and talked with some of his players, too.
Famous for saying every injured player is “day to day,” Fox was just as coy about the timeline for his own recovery.
“I can just tell you that I’m working very hard to get better and I feel like my doctors are pleased that I’ve improved every day,” he said. “So things are going great. I like where I’m at right now and we’ll see where that leaves us.”
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