ORLANDO, Fla. –Several months removed from midseason heart surgery, Head Coach John Fox gave an update on his health at the NFL annual meetings in Orlando, Fla.
Fox reiterated that the valve condition that caused his health scare over the bye week was a pre-existing condition that he was born with and knew would require replacement surgery at some point.
But because it was a condition he'd learned to live with, Fox said he didn't realize just how much room he had to feel better health-wise.
"What happened was that thing slowly disintegrated, it affects your quality of life and you don't realize it because you learn to deal with it on a daily basis," Fox said. "The reason you feel so much better is because it gets fixed like a car getting a valve fixed – it works better. So, you notice it where you might not have noticed it early because you got used to it."
When asked to put a percentage on how much better he feels now, Fox couldn't put a number on it, but said he was simply "a bunch better."
Fox credits the surgery with adding 15 years to his life.
"I think first and foremost it has been a real positive thing for me," Fox said. "I was operating with a deficient heart. So, now I can exercise harder and I feel great."
The strangest part of the whole ordeal for Fox was the four games that he had to watch on television instead of from the sidelines.
"I hadn't missed a game in 250 games," Fox said. "I played way back at San Diego State – I hadn't missed a game due to injury for a long time. And so that was the oddest part, sitting here watching TV and it's your team. Because as a coach, I hadn't been injured before. Doing that for 25 years – you don't miss games. That was the strangest thing. Luckily, I got back and I feel better than I ever felt."
Fox compared the time he missed while he was recovering to the experience of a player missing games with an injury.
His time away from the team rehabbing gave Fox a glimpse into a player's perspective when they are forced to miss time during the season.
"I'd liken it to being injured," Fox said. "A guy misses four weeks with a sprained ankle. I had not experienced that because as a coach, we don't get sprained ankles. It felt a little bit like probably a player does when he's at home and the team travels and he watches his team play. Like Von Miller when he got hurt – it's hard. It was very hard. I have a new appreciation for what players go through."
Although the surgery wasn't due to poor dietary or other lifestyle factors, Fox said that he has paid more attention to what he eats and how much exercise he gets now.
"I think whenever you go through a scare like that, I think I don't know how long it'll last, but I try to eat better and all those things affect a lot of stuff," Fox said. "It does affect your health, how you eat."
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio took over interim head coaching duties in Fox's absence and helped lead the Broncos to a 3-1 record in four games, all of which came against 2014 playoff teams and three of which were played on the road.
Fox credited the work that Del Rio, as well as the rest of the team's front office, did while he was recovering.
"It was something where there was a plan," Fox said. "I think the front office had a great plan. I think we did it smart – you don't want to come back too early and affect your potential health there. I thought everybody handled it really well and just kind of slid back in there. Much like a player when he comes back from injury. That's what I tried to relate it to. Other than the initial fear whether it was myself or the fear of my family when they looked like, 'Oh my God, you might not be here anymore.'
"Other than that, initially, after the first week, everything went smooth."