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Westhoff relishes chance to make first Super Bowl

Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff could be

Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff could be in trouble with the league after publicly complaining that the Patriots use a "wall" along their sidelines on kick returns. Credit: John Dunn, 2009

How confident is Mike Westhoff? He's spent time this week drawing up plays and schemes for his special teams unit when they play either the Vikings or the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.

"I know for sure on Saturday night when I stand up in front of the group that I have, my guys . . . there will be no way I'll be thinking this is the last time that we're going to meet," the Jets' special teams coordinator said Thursday. "Whether or not it is, we have to prove that. But that's where I'm going to be."

And with any luck, he'll be in the Super Bowl two weeks later. After 27 seasons and more than 500 games as an NFL coach, Westhoff is as close as he's ever been to the final game of the season. He was on the Dolphins staff that lost to the Bills in the AFC Championship Game at the end of the 1992 season, but he's never been closer than he is now.

Not as a coach, anyway. When he was on the staff in Miami, Westhoff would attend the Super Bowls hosted in that city. But when he went to Super Bowl XXXIII between the Falcons and the Broncos, he was so frustrated he made a conscious decision that it would be his last from the stands.

"Never again," he said. "Not unless I'm in it."

For a while it seemed Westhoff had run out of those chances. He retired after the 2007 season to deal with complications from bone cancer in his leg and a cracked bone graft. But by the time the 2008 season began, though, he was back working for the Jets.

"It makes me extremely appreciative of where I am," Westhoff said. "Extremely. Every day. It doesn't make me any more gentle. You can ask them. Or any more patient. But I'm very appreciative.

"All you have to do is get one of those wristbands on and be in the waiting room at Sloan-Kettering for an X-ray and you get a total perspective of things," Westhoff said.

But he insists that his medical history has no bearing on the Jets and their chances of advancing to the Super Bowl. The Jets have an opportunity that doesn't come around very often, Westhoff knows, and he'll tell the team that. And he won't only use his own career as an example. He'll point to someone he worked closely with on the Dolphins: Dan Marino.

"He went his rookie year and didn't go back," Westhoff said. "And he was pretty good. That doesn't mean his career wasn't a great career. That's erroneous. But yet there's something that's missing, something you don't have."

Westhoff doesn't have it either. Not yet. But he's drawing up gameplans for the Vikings and the Saints just in case.

"I'd give anything to have that opportunity," Westhoff said. "We have a chance. We have to make the most of it."

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