ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The way most people absorb the NFL isn't quite acceptable for someone like Head Coach John Fox, who's spent nearly all of the last 25 seasons with an up-close view from a pro sideline.
"I had open-heart surgery and watching those games was harder than any pain I felt during that rehab," he said.
Being in close contact with Interim Head Coach Jack Del Rio, his assistants and some players wasn't enough. Technology helped reduce the mental distance between Fox and his team in a way that would not have been possible even five years ago, but there was only so much that he could do while he recovered from his aortic-valve replacement surgery two time zones away from Dove Valley.
“I talked to Jack every day," Fox said. "I did what I do here -- except go to practice and go to the games. We have technologies today where I'll have an iPad that, all over the internet, I can get all our cut-ups.
"I can get situational cut-ups. I can do practices. So really, other than I was in another state, much the same that I would have done in my office here in Dove Valley.”
Except for the games. From Monday through Saturday, Fox had a glimpse that approximated his usual perspective, except without the one-on-one interaction that is a hallmark of his style.
Then came Sundays, when he was just like you -- turning on the flat-screen and watching.
What makes football difficult for the die-hard fan is the helplessness. You watch your team struggle, but you are powerless to affect its outcome, no matter how many times you repair to the basement for beer or leave your supposedly lucky underwear unwashed.
"So much like it is when you're on the headset other than you're not right there," said Fox. "The emotions are a lot the same and that's probably the hardest part, because you're not there."
And when you watch from afar, you second-guess -- something to which Fox admitted.
"In fairness, a couple times, but I'm sure a lot of people do the same thing when I'm doing that," he said with a laugh. "It's just part of the game.”
So how did Fox watch the games? Did he have a notepad to furiously scribble thoughts to share with his assistants later? Was he pacing the living room to channel his nervous energy, or quietly fidgeting on the couch?
"Kind of all that," Fox said. "Much the same as I would do if I was standing on the sideline. I probably sat down more than I stood up. I stood up a lot, too.
"You have a lot of the same emotions. I talked to
Kevin Vickerson yesterday. I knew it was going to be the first time he watched and I knew how hard it was. I'm sure that wasn't any fun for him, either."
Both Vickerson and Fox were back at Broncos headquarters Monday, and had a team waiting for them. And that's the biggest difference of all -- knowing that when you're not around, you're missed, and when you return, you're embraced. It makes absence harder, but also easier, all at once.