It's been four days, and the questions are already coming, questions of phone calls, of contact, of advice. It's been four days since Broncos coach John Fox had aortic valve-replacement surgery, and within seconds of the team announcing he'd been released from a hospital Friday, interim coach Jack Del Rio was asked how the head coach's role might increase. It's fast. It's crazy. But in 2013, a medical leave of absence means something less than an actual disconnect from your work. Just ask Winston Justice. It was a year ago now that the text messages starting coming. Even from his hospital bed, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano noticed enough to send a quick text message to Justice any time he could. Justice, now an offensive tackle for the Broncos, remembers seeing those texts last fall and feeling a connection with his coach, who was undergoing chemotherapy to treat leukemia and missed 12 games. After the early rounds of Pagano's treatment, players could no longer visit him, and so the texts started coming — and coming, and coming — to Justice, to the star players such as Reggie Wayne and Andrew Luck, to the players few notice. Pagano was already a big texter, Justice said, but for those three months, his cellphone and its keyboard were the only ways Pagano could reach the team that was improbably winning without him, winning for him. The Broncos can only hope Fox's absence will be the same galvanizing force. The coach will remain in North Carolina until he's able to travel, and though his contact with his staff will increase, the team is still uncertain of the influence Fox can have as he recovers. "I'm sure he's happy to be at home resting and recovering," Del Rio said Friday. "He'll join us as soon he can. "We'll talk, I would think, almost on a daily basis from here on out." The Broncos, obviously, would prefer to have as much contact with their coach as possible without straining him, and with everything from cellphones to iPads to remote access to film, coaching can easily infiltrate a hospital room, or a coach's home while he recovers. Pagano stayed in the mix, and what he and Fox have faced is a far cry from what a medical leave of absence was even 15 years ago. Dan Reeves, who coached the Broncos from 1981-92, took a three-week leave from his role as the Atlanta Falcons head coach at the end of 1998 to undergo quadruple-bypass surgery. By the time he appointed Rich Brooks his interim and underwent the surgery, the Falcons were 12-2, already guaranteed a playoff berth. Reeves said that in his time away, he was truly away — few phone calls, no video and certainly no text messages.
John Fox can rest easy — and remain connected to Broncos in recovery
Denver Post | Nov 9