New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis wanted to lose weight, not his life. He wanted to project a different snapshot image for NFL owners who prefer their head coaches to have the "right look." Dead in a coffin wasn't what he had in mind.
"A couple of doctor friends of mine have told me that I'm lucky to be alive after what I went through," said Weis.
|Charlie Weis (shown here in a pre-surgery file photo) played a key role in New England's Super Bowl success.|
A gastric bypass procedure that Weis elected to have on June 15 resulted in a near-death experience. He was administered last rites by a Catholic priest two days after his surgery as he lay connected to a ventilator in the intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Weis endured a blood transfusion of seven pints and spent two weeks in the ICU, plus another two weeks at the Rhode Island Rehabilitation Center. He's finally home, but he won't join the defending Super Bowl champions when they open training camp Friday.
Weis can't walk on his own because he has nerve damage in both feet due to the complications. His right foot is worse than the left, and he needs a walker to move around. He endures physical therapy every morning, and while doctors have told him the condition is temporary, he is not expected to walk unrestricted for two or three months.
Weis may join the Patriots late next week, but will only attend meetings at first. He will then do his coaching from a golf cart.
Until then, Patriots coach Bill Belichick will handle much of Weis' duties as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Unfortunately, it is ground that has been covered by Belichick, who stepped in when quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein died of a heart attack late last summer.
Belichick and Weis already have scripted the first week of practice for the offense. Weis will remain in the loop via a quality control coach who will deliver tapes of early training camp practices to Weis. Weis will continue scripting practice with input from Belichick, who has been very supportive.
"Bill's been good," said Weis. "He's worried about September 9th, not August 9th."
Weis has battled weight problems for many years, but his success as offensive coordinator under Bill Parcells with the New York Jets and Belichick with the Patriots has put him on the coaching map. After the Patriots upset the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl, Weis emerged as a candidate for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job that went to Jon Gruden. He knows that these opportunities come and go, and he knows that many owners are looking not only for results but also for the right image.
Thus, he opted to have the gastric bypass, a procedure in which the stomach is reduced to a smaller size. It's a "simple" deal. You eat less on a smaller stomach. You lose weight. You look better.
"I'm not going to deny what my motive was, even though there are obvious long-term health benefits," said Weis. "My thoughts were that if I wanted to be a head coach, I had to lose weight. If that was the obstacle that was going to keep me from being a head coach, then why not do something about it?"
I'm not going to deny what my motive was, even though there are obvious long-term health benefits. My thoughts were that if I wanted to be a head coach, I had to lose weight.
Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis
It is a stereotype that needs some discussion among owners. It's not just Weis' imagination. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen's weight was considered an unspeakable negative as he coveted a head-coaching job at the NFL and collegiate level. Despite his success as a coordinator at both levels, for years he was never mentioned as a serious candidate for a job.
Then, ironically, Friedgen almost got two offers in one year -- the Buccaneers courted him after one season as head coach at Maryland in which he was named the national coach of the year.
One GM explained the problem: "Bottom line, it shouldn't matter. But the head coach is somebody who is always out front with the media in the NFL, and with the alumni and the media in college. Image is part of it, but there are some guys who believe it's a reflection of self-discipline. How can you demand self-control from players when you don't have it yourself? It could be symptomatic of some other issues."
Or it could be just a cosmetic myth.
Weis, 45, was supposed to be hospitalized for just one night after the June 15 surgery. He went home Saturday but was rushed back Sunday because of internal bleeding.
"It was bad," said Weis. "Of course, I don't remember any of it. But the good part is, I still have my mind. No [brain] damage. Walking is the most frustrating part -- that, and getting the energy level I need. Once I get that, I'll be fine. Then it will be no different than a coach with a broken leg."