CORTLAND, N.Y. — Everyone knows Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff is one tough son of a gun; cancer survivor, specials teams innovator, master talent evaluator, cursing enthusiast. Yesterday at the team’s check-in day on the SUNY Cortland campus, however, his tough guy reputation grew a little bigger.
For Westhoff, it was his first public appearance with the team since recovering from a gruesome knee injury in late May. He missed the majority of the Jets’ rookie and mini-camps after surgery on his left leg — the same leg that a titanium prosthesis was placed in 2008.
A bone marrow cancer survivor — a malignant tumor was found on the same leg in 1988, Westhoff heard a clicking sound while visiting his son in Indianpolis. The sound was enough to have the special teams innovator go to a local hospital for x-rays. While in the hospital, awaiting to take those very same x-rays, Westhoff slipped in the bathroom and the “really thick” custom-made prosthetic snapped. He would have surgery afterwards, an occurrence that’s happened several times since the cancer scare.
Sidelined and bed-ridden for a short-period of time, he handed the special teams duties over to assistant Ben Kotwica, whom he spoke with everyday. He stayed in touch with the unit to know there was still a lot of sloppiness, according to him.
One might think for a football lifer like Westhoff, being away from the game would be painful. He said Thursday, however, that it “wasn’t as bad as you might think”. “I had no choice,” he said, “so it was easy that way.”
Now back with the team as they embark on the Jets 2012 pilgrimage to the Lombardi Trophy he’s accompanied by a cane, but that won’t slow him down.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to football.”
After describing his knee as “being held together by tissue” he would later state that the whole experience “not being as difficult as you’d think”.
Tough times don’t last, Mike Westhoff does.
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