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Westhoff Recovering from Latest Tough Break

Posted May 24, 2012

Updated, 8:30 p.m. ET

Mike Westhoff has suffered another tough break. but one that he says he'll bounce back from soon.

Westhoff, who said he had eight major surgeries plus one "touch-up" on his left leg since he was diagnosed with a cancerous femur more than two decades ago, had surgery No. 10 last Friday.

"I'm not bad ... I've been better," Westhoff told newyorkjets.com when reached tonight by phone. Asked if he thinks he'll be ready to resume coaching duties by training camp in late July, he sounded confident.

"I'm quite certain I'll be fine for that," he said. "I'm not putting a timeframe on anything. I'm just being very careful and quiet. I'll do my little rehab and get healthy again. You spend that much time incapacitated, it just wears you out." 

Westhoff was laid up for 11 days total in Indiana after breaking a graft in his left on Saturday, May 12, while visiting his son, daughter-in-law and grandson in the Hoosier State. He needed six days for a new graft to arrive, then a "several-hour surgery" performed by Dr. Daniel Wurtz at the Indiana University Medical Center, then five more days of recovery before he could return to North Jersey.

Westhoff's previous most recent surgery was more extensive, a 10-hour operation performed by Dr. John Healey and his team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York in February 2008, during which old bone and hardware were removed from his leg and a titanium prosthetic femur was implanted.

"That was different. That was an entire reconstructive graft linking my hip and my knee together," the coach explained. "What this was was a break in one of the pieces of the graft. It had several pieces, and one of them, for whatever reason, broke. If you saw the graft, you wouldn't believe in a million years it could break. In fact, you'd have a hard time finding somebody who could cut it."

He said he knew something was wrong because, even though he was in no pain and had full range of motion, he noticed a clicking noise in his leg. On his way to get an X-ray, he said the graft broke high in his mid-thigh.

The required parts had to be manufactured, which kept Westhoff in traction for those first six days. Then came the surgery.

"Dr. Wurtz is an incredible physician, very similar in makeup to John Healey. They do major tumor reconstruction — all the big stuff. Fortunately for me, he was there," Westhoff said. "He was very gracious and he said he could repair this. It became a hardware repair."

Westhoff also thanked Jets owner Woody Johnson for a safe return closer to the Jets home after the surgery.

"Mr. Johnson facilitated me getting back," he said. "You know how grateful I am to him as an owner. He's just been tremendous to me. At the end of the day, he's the reason I wanted to be a Jet for as long as I have. I have a tremendous respect for what he's done for everybody."

And Westhoff, one of the NFL's most respected special teams coaches for the past three decades, still plans on being back for his 12th season in green and white. But for the short term, assistant special teams coach Ben Kotwica is coordinating the Jets' "teams" for the current OTA practices and the full-squad minicamp from June 12-14.

"Our schedules are all set. The things I know we have to get in are all set. The depth charts are all put in place. Ben implements it," Westhoff said of what Kotwica has on his plate. "He and I talk every day about what goes on, who did what, all that type of stuff. He's very good, very capable. They'll practice for him anyhow someday. Plus as I said, he's ready to roll and handle it."

And Mike Westhoff, despite yet another painful story to tell, will soon enough be ready to roll and handle it himself. But Jets fans can surely help him along with their well wishes until he's back on the sidelines.

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