Kelly says he tries to be careful when it comes to his health

Posted: November 06, 2013

CHIP KELLY has dedicated his entire adult life to all things football. At 49 years of age, he has no wife, no kids, only football. Stories abound of him driving hundreds of miles, sleeping on the couches of friends and kind coaches, to accumulate the knowledge he taps into every day as the first-year head coach of the Eagles. Stories also abound of him holed up in a little office back when he was an assistant coach at University of New Hampshire.

It's all in the life of a football coach, a very unhealthy life if you are not careful. Kelly said yesterday that he is careful, and it is clear to those who knew him in the UNH days that his exposure to the world of Nike while at Oregon pushed him in that direction, and away from the pub grub and ice pops he lived on back when he worked those long hours and was making about 62 grand a year.

So I asked him yesterday how he viewed the collapses of two NFL coaching peers over the weekend - one on the job, one on a golf course. Does he, like many of us, trace it to the incredible stress associated with the job? Or does he say it can, and does, happen to anybody?

"I don't say it could happen to anybody, because I know what goes on, because I do it," he said. "But I also know there's a lot of people who have stressful jobs."

His father was an attorney for many years before retiring.

"There's firemen, there's policemen, there's doctors - there's everybody," Kelly said. "I think whether you're a football coach or anybody, you should take notice of what happened and just make sure you can be preventative of what goes on. I don't think it's specific just to football coaches in general. There are a lot of people with stressful jobs out there, and everybody should kind of not think about, 'Hey, I got this. I've got a job to do, I need to take care of it.' Because I think you have to have some balance and make sure you take care of yourself."

Because what they do is so public, NFL head coaches with heart issues make headlines. Dan Reeves, an ex-player who coached the Broncos, Giants and Falcons, had heart surgery. Giants coach Bill Parcells had heart disease.

Mike Ditka had what was described then as a major heart attack in 1988, missed a game and returned to the Bears sideline.

And while Andy Reid maintained relatively good health through some trying years here, his vacillation in weight in season and out was notorious.

Various medical studies done over decades have continually linked stress to health issues, particularly involving the heart. Stress, combined with a lack of control over one's destiny, was cited in a 2012 University College London study as increasing the likelihood of heart disease by 23 percent. Stress, it said, brings about poor diet habits, which creates other issues, such as high cholesterol and even diabetes.

Gary Kubiak, the Houston Texans coach, collapsed at halftime of Sunday night's game and was taken to a hospital, where he continued to undergo tests yesterday. When I searched his name online yesterday, the top two descriptors that followed were "collapse" and "hot seat."

Texans owner Bob McNair touted the Texans as a playoff team before the season. After a 2-0 start, there was talk of a Super Bowl. A slew of issues, most notably poor play from quarterback Matt Schaub and his replacements, began a cascade of losses that reached six with Sunday's loss to Indianapolis.

The irony is that Houston led, 21-3, at halftime when Kubiak collapsed. He was in a hospital bed by the time their latest collapse was complete, a 27-24 loss.

There is irony in Fox' situation as well. Aware of his heart condition, he was in North Carolina over the weekend to arrange to have his aortic valve replaced after this season. Instead, after he collapsed on a golf course Saturday, the procedure was done yesterday morning and Fox likely will not coach the remainder of the regular season.

Reid was a stationary figure in practice. Kelly, in contrast, moves at a brisk pace, sometimes running from one station to another. Hours before his Monday night debut in Washington, ESPN caught the new coach running up and down the stands in shorts and running shoes, getting in his workout, reducing perhaps some pregame stress.

His emphasis on health and nutrition can be seen throughout the NovaCare Complex, right up to the healthy snacks sitting on a table outside the locker room. But he's not saying, "Hey, I got this," and, with the Packers game ahead of him Sunday, he's not about to reduce his or his staff's hours, either.

"I think everybody thinks about it," Kelly said. "But I think it's really encouraged in this league when we got here. Everybody on our staff got physicals, and it's a yearly thing, and this organization is pretty proactive in terms of that aspect of it. But it is something I think everybody should be aware of."


Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

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