A coach's health plan starts with the coach

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
5:00
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the span of 36 hours a head coach John Elway had hired and a head coach who was a former teammate were taken to hospitals with health concerns.

Denver coach John Fox was recovering in a Charlotte, N.C., area hospital Monday afternoon following surgery to replace the aortic valve in his heart. Fox, who had hoped to have the procedure following the season, had experienced dizziness and light-headedness during a round of golf Saturday. After tests the surgery was scheduled for Monday morning.

Elway

When you look at the pressure in this game there is a lot of pressure on head coaches. So, I think, especially with the size of this game and growth of this game, the expectation levels have continued to grow. So thats a tough, tough spot.

-- John Elway, on NFL coaches dealing with stress


Texans coach Gary Kubiak, a long-time friend and teammate of Elway’s, collapsed Sunday night as he walked to the locker room at halftime of the Houston Texans’ game against the Indianapolis Colts. Kubiak was taken by ambulance from the stadium to a Houston hospital where he remained Monday. Doctors were running tests to see if Kubiak had a stroke.

“There’s always a concern,’’ Elway said. “When you look at the pressure in this game there is a lot of pressure on head coaches. So, I think, especially with the size of this game and growth of this game, the expectation levels have continued to grow. So that’s a tough, tough spot.’’

While Fox and Kubiak share the same profession, it isn't clear how much stress in their respective workplaces actually played in their particular issues. But from Elway's perspective, he said he looks at it all through the prism of his father's work life. Elway’s father Jack, a long-time college assistant and head coach as well as an NFL personnel evaluator, died of a heart attack in 2001, at age 69.

And Elway said Monday while he recognizes the stresses involved in the profession, he believes a coach’s overall health starts with the coach himself.

“I’m going to speak for my dad, they don’t take very good care of themselves,’’ Elway said. “And so the idea is to keep getting them to take care of themselves. I think, not that any of the John or Gary situations resembles my dad, but I was always on my dad. I'm talking just for my dad … the last person on the totem pole they take care of is themselves. So hopefully they will take better care of themselves, a lot of them do, I know that.’’

Elway said like the Broncos’ players, the coaches and scouting staff are also given “extensive’’ physicals each year and the meals the coaches are served at the team’s facility are planned by the same team nutritionist who monitors what is served to the players. Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, a long-time friend of Fox’s and now the team’s interim head coach in Fox’s absence, said coaches are much like many in the workforce all over the country. That eating right, getting enough exercise are not simply rules to live by for those in the football world.

“I think you do the best you can to make sure you’re working out and eating properly, all of the things all of us need to be doing out there,’’ Del Rio said. “ … It’s life, we’re coaches, but we’re human beings, things happen in life. You try to do the best you can to take care of yourself and the situation the best you can. I think the fact both happened in the same weekend will draw a lot of attention to it, I’m sure. But we’re people, coaches are people, just like everyone, it’s a slice of life.’’

Asked Monday if he believed the stresses that come with coaching in the NFL are “unavoidable,’’ Elway said: “No, because I think there are coaches that do take care of themselves. I’m speaking for my dad in that I wish he would have taken better care of himself … they have tunnel vision and the only thing they think about is the guys on that football team.’’

Elway said Fox’s return date has not been set and it’s still unclear when Fox will be allowed to have contact with the Broncos about any sort of football matters in the weeks and months ahead. Elway added Fox’s long-term health was the top priority in any plan for Fox’s return to his duties.

“Again, it goes back to the same thing when the doctors tell us exactly what it would be and when it was going to be,’’ Elway said. “I would just tell you this is a serious thing for John and it was a serious procedure.’’

Jeff Legwold

ESPN Denver Broncos reporter

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