Nationals

Jets' retiring Westhoff prepares for last NFL game

Jets' retiring Westhoff prepares for last NFL game

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.''

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Max Scherzer received cortisone shot for back and won't pitch against Braves

Max Scherzer received cortisone shot for back and won't pitch against Braves

Max Scherzer will not pitch this weekend against the Braves, the pitcher confirmed to reporters in Atlanta.

Scherzer has been diagnosed with Scapulothoracic bursitis.

Before the game on Friday night, he joked that he had to Google what the term means. He described the pain as "like having a rock in your shoe and trying to run."

On Tuesday, Scherzer was given a cortisone shot to help with inflammation. He is hopeful he will be able to throw a bullpen session in four or five days. 

Former teammate Shawn Kelley was able to advise Scherzer, having just dealt with this issue. 

Austin Voth is confirmed to start on Sunday in place of Scherzer.

Scherzer was placed on 10-day injured list on July 13, retroactive to July 10. This is just the third time in his career that his name has appeared on the injured list.

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Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

On paper, Jay Gruden's tenor with the Redskins is nothing to write home about. Through five seasons he holds a 35-44-1 record, good enough for a .444 winning percentage. Looking at that, some may draw the conclusion that Gruden hasn't been what the Redskins need at the helm.

But according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, that's not exactly the case. Taking into account the variables Gruden has dealt with throughout the five years, Gantt actually sees him as a "really good" coach.

"I have always come down of the side, maybe, of guys who are doing more with less," Gantt said recently on a Redskins Talk Podcast. "I think Jay has done a pretty good job keeping things in the middle."

Doing more with less and working in the middle essentially defines Jay Gruden's career with the Redskins. Besides his opening year in 2014 in which Washington went 4-12, Gruden's teams have consistently finished right around the middle of the pack.

In the last four seasons, the Redskins have not won more than nine games, but they also haven't lost more than nine. Hovering right around .500, they've always been around league average.

Part of the reason Gantt is willing to give Gruden praise for records that some coaches would get scolded for revolves around what he's had to work with. Gruden's time as head coach has been filled with injuries and other dilemmas both on and off the field. 

In those circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team completely flounder and spiral out of control. But, that hasn't really been the case with Gruden. Dealing with what he has, the head coach has kept the team competitive for the most part. The team hasn't been a perennial playoff contender, but it also hasn't been at the bottom of the league.

For that ability to keep the Redskins out of the basement despite all the problems he's encountered, Gruden is someone Gantt respects.

"They're able to keep it out of the ditches," Gantt said about Gruden and former NFL head coach John Fox, who Gantt followed during his time in Carolina.

"I think again in the NFL there's something to be said for that," Gantt added. "When things get sideways a Jim Zorn can lose control in a hurry. I feel like Jay just got sort of a steady hand on the wheel."

Until Gruden takes Washington back to the postseason, the critiques will continue to come, as they would for almost all head coaches in similar situations. But when looking at Gruden's time in Washington with a wide view of everything that has happened, Gantt believes the head coach deserves at least a little praise for keeping things afloat.

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