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Broncos coach Fox set to return to work Monday

By: ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
November 28, 2013 Updated: November 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm
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ENGLEWOOD — John Fox is returning to work Monday, less than a month after undergoing open-heart surgery, and he plans to coach the Denver Broncos in their game against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 8.

What hasn't been determined is whether Fox will coach from the sideline or the booth. Fox Sports first reported his impending return.

The team issued a statement Thursday saying that "while no formal restrictions will be placed on his workload upon his return, he will continue to be monitored by our medical staff as his well-being remains our No. 1 priority."

Team owner Pat Bowlen sent his private jet to Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday to bring Fox and his wife, Robin, back to Denver. Fox had been recuperating at his offseason home after aortic valve replacement surgery Nov. 4.

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has coached the team in Fox's absence, going 2-1. Del Rio and the Broncos face Kansas City on Sunday in a matchup of 9-2 teams for the AFC West lead.

Fox has been in daily contact with Del Rio over the last few weeks and even Skyped his players during a team meeting last week.

Although he'll officially return to his job Monday, Fox has actually been back coaching for a while. He was breaking down plays upon his release from the hospital four days after his operation, and on Wednesday quarterback Peyton Manning said they've communicated "a healthy amount" over the last three weeks.

"A lot of text messages, a couple of phone conversions during the week, early in the week and then maybe later on in the week. Certainly, about his health, about how he's doing, but a lot about football, as well," Manning said.

"He has felt better where he's had the energy to study the opponent and he can watch practice via the iPad system, and so he's giving me tips and reminders, things that he thinks I need to work and things that he thinks our offense needs to focus on. Those have always been very helpful."

Eight days after the surgery, Fox said on a conference call with reporters that he was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, one that has only two leaflets instead of the usual three. The aortic valve regulates blood flow from the heart into the aorta, the major blood vessel that brings blood into the body.

He said it was discovered in 1997 when a murmur showed up in a physical while he was the Giants defensive coordinator. He was told earlier this year that surgery was necessary, but he had hoped to delay the operation until after the Super Bowl.

That changed when he almost passed out Nov. 2 while golfing in Charlotte, two days after he'd visited his cardiologist in Raleigh. Less than 48 hours later, he had surgery, and he was released from the hospital four days after that.

He said the typical hospital stay for such surgeries is five to seven days. He also noted that he was "very, very healthy," saying his heart condition was more of a birth defect than the result of any poor lifestyle choices or too much stress. He pledged then get back to work by season's end.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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