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Jets' retiring Westhoff prepares for last NFL game

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. - AP Sports Writer
    2012-12-27 21:23

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - Mike Westhoff is sticking to his plan to call it a career.

The New York Jets' special teams coordinator is retiring - just as he said he wanted to do before the season - after the team's finale Sunday at Buffalo. The 64-year-old Westhoff is considered one of the league's most innovative coaches throughout his 30 years in the NFL.

``It has been a great, great run and I've been very fortunate with it,'' Westhoff said Thursday in announcing that it was his ``last official'' news conference. ``For the most part, wow, I've really had a good time.''

He has spent the last 12 years with the Jets after 15 as Miami's special teams coach and three with Indianapolis. Westhoff, who by his count has coached in 624 NFL games, helped launch the careers of several Pro Bowl selections on special teams, including Olindo Mare, Rohn Stark, Larry Izzo, Reggie Roby and Leon Washington.

``I'm happy and proud to be in the place I am in my career,'' Westhoff said. ``Few of us get to leave this business on our own volition, and I'm able to do that.''

Westhoff said assistant Ben Kotwica will take over for him with the Jets - although the coaching staff could see some changes after the season. Westhoff said he had no second thoughts about retiring.

``It's time for me to go,'' Westhoff said. ``Sometimes you have a shelf life. I've been here 12 years and that's a long time. ... Sometimes, I think change is a good thing. We have an excellent guy that will take over for me in Ben Kotwica. He'll do a great job.''

Westhoff won't rule out coaching again someday, but would like to get into the media as an expert on special teams - similar to what former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira does for FOX during its game broadcasts. Always candid and descriptive during his weekly news conferences, Westhoff also is a colorful character who will likely be able to make a smooth transition to television in that capacity.

``I'd like to create a little bit of a niche somewhere with someone,'' Westhoff said. ``I don't want to be the guy that talks about who should be the quarterback. We have enough of that.''

He thinks most people consider special teams as ``recess,'' and he wants to give a greater understanding of what goes into kickoffs, punts, field goals and long snaps.

``I'd love to be able to talk a little bit about it,'' he said. ``I don't have any delusions of grandeur. I'm not Chris Berman.''

Westhoff is a cancer survivor, having dealt with several operations in his left leg after a malignant tumor was discovered in his femur in 1988. Westhoff stepped down as the Jets' special teams coach after the team's final game in 2007 after a bone graft cracked in his leg. He had a titanium prosthesis inserted in the leg in February 2008, and returned to the Jets early that season. Westhoff recovered so well, he has been able to coach without the use of a cane.

Westhoff, who plans to return to his home in Florida in the offseason, has enjoyed interacting with Jets fans in New York over the years, running into people who have recognized him all over the city.

``I don't like taking pictures in the bathroom in Penn Station,'' Westhoff said with a smile, ``but I've loved my association here. I'm very, very proud of it.''

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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