John Fox is out of the hospital, and the rest of the Denver Broncos are feeling better as well.
"Great news today," interim coach Jack Del Rio said Friday in announcing Fox’s release from the hospital four days after undergoing heart surgery in Charlotte, N.C. "I know that he’s excited to get out, is one step closer to getting back with us."
Del Rio said Fox was resting at his offseason home in Charlotte, where he’ll continue his recovery and begin cardio rehab soon.
Fox had his aortic value replaced at the Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte on Monday, two days after becoming dizzy while playing golf during the Broncos’ bye.
Fox had hoped to put off the procedure until the offseason, but his cardiologist, Dr. Geoff Rose, and heart surgeon, Dr. Mark Stiegel, determined he could no longer push back the surgery after he fell ill over the weekend.
Fox said in a statement released by the team that his recovery is progressing well — "I’m feeling better and stronger each day" –and he’ll continue meeting with his doctors, "who will clear me to return to Denver when the time is right."
He said it’ll be difficult not to be at the game Sunday when the Broncos (7-1) visit the Chargers (4-4).
"Although I’m eager to return to coaching, my No. 1 focus is my health. I believe in our players and have full confidence in Jack Del Rio and our staff," Fox said. "While it’s extremely difficult to be away from the team on Sunday in San Diego, I’ll be cheering them on from home just like the many Broncos fans who have supported me throughout this process."
Players say Fox’s tribulations have galvanized them.
"We’re just excited to hear that he’s doing well. He’ll be back soon and we just have to go out there and play through him, play for him," defensive captain Wesley Woodyard said. "He wants to be here with us. This is his hometown we’re going back to, so it’ll be a big victory if we pull this one off."
Del Rio informed the team of Fox’s release from the hospital Friday morning.
"Once you get out of the hospital, that pretty much means that they’re saying you’re good and the process went well," cornerback Chris Harris said.
Tight end Jacob Tamme said the first step of getting discharged from the hospital is always a big leap.
"We know he’s still got a lot of recovery left to do but that’s definitely a great thing," Tamme said. "I know when you get to go home, that’s always a positive."
Fox will still have input on his team while he’s recovering over the next several weeks.
Del Rio said he figures to talk with Fox on the phone "I would think on a daily basis from here on out."
Del Rio, who was head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-11 before rejoining Fox in Denver last year, is keeping his defensive coordinator duties during Fox’s absence.
So, he’ll rely heavily on his staff, especially linebackers coach Richard Smith, a former defensive coordinator for the Dolphins and Texans, on game day, when he’ll have to keep his eyes on the field the whole time.
That doesn’t mean he won’t go over to his defensive players between series if he has something to say.
"Well, I don’t have a restrainer on me," Del Rio said. "I can walk over to the bench, either bench, at any time."