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Procedure for bone cancer to sideline special teams coach

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Jets special teams coach
Mike Westhoff, a veteran of 25 NFL seasons, will not return next
year because he needs a ninth operation on his ailing left leg.

Westhoff, who has battled bone cancer in the leg, announced
Sunday he needs to have a procedure that will require a substantial
amount of recovery time. Because of that, Westhoff won't be able to
fully dedicate the time needed to coach.

"I'm not going to use the word 'retire,'" Westhoff said.
"I'll be 60 in a week. I could, but I don't know. I want to get
through this and see. I know that I will not coach next year. After
that, I'll make the decision that's best for me. I just don't
know."

Westhoff has had eight operations on his left leg since a
malignant tumor was found in 1988. He has coached all season using
crutches after having the latest procedure in February, and has
been on the sidelines for all but one Jets game this season. The
next operation is scheduled for Feb. 7.

"The graft that I have in my left leg keeps fracturing," he
said. "It's not healing properly. They're going to replace it with
a prosthetic rod from my hip to my knee. It will be a total
replacement. It's a complex surgery that will take a lot of rehab
time."

Westhoff, the Jets' special teams coach since 2001, told the
players Sunday morning that he wasn't going to be with them next
season. A tribute video, complete with a cane-throwing tantrum from
one heated practice, was shown to the players after the
announcement was made.

"I got a little teary-eyed because he's a good leader, a fiery
guy and he makes you laugh at practice," safety Kerry Rhodes said.
"Some days, his presence alone gets you going. He's going to be
missed."

It was perhaps fitting that the Jets' season ended with
Mike Nugent making a winning 43-yard field goal to beat Kansas City
13-10 in overtime. The team gave Westhoff the game ball after the
victory.

"I've learned a lot from Coach," Nugent said. "Not just
kicking, but just the relationship we've had. I'm excited to see
him again after everything settles down."

Leon Washington thrived this season under Westhoff after
replacing the injured Justin Miller as the Jets' primary kick
returner. He ranked among the league leaders in return average and
brought back three kickoffs for touchdowns.

"It's a complete shock," Washington said. "He might be the
best special teams coach to ever coach this game. I definitely love
him. Everybody on this team loves him."

After eight years at the college level, Westhoff coached with
the Colts (1982-84), the Arizona Outlaws of the USFL (1985), Miami
(1986-2000) and the Jets. He also helped develop a number of
special teams stars, including Miller, Washington, Rohn Stark,
Reggie Roby and Olindo Mare.

"I've been very lucky," Westhoff said. "I've coached about
550 games, including preseason and the playoffs. It's been an
incredible honor for me."