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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 1, 2010

NFL: Jets punter has procedure to fix erratic heartbeat

AP Sports Writer

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. Steve Weatherford is no longer worried about his heart.

He hopes the New York Jets feel the same.

The veteran punter told The Associated Press on Thursday that he had a procedure last week to prevent irregular heartbeats, such as the one that caused him to miss an opening-round playoff victory at Cincinnati last season.

"I want my coaches to have full confidence in me and that was something that needed to be done," Weatherford said. "I don't want that to ever be an issue again. I want to grow old and be a dad for many years to come, and if you can fix it, why not?"

Weatherford had cardiac ablation, a minimally invasive procedure used to treat abnormal heart rhythms, last Thursday at Morristown Memorial Hospital, located a few miles from the team's facility.

The 4-hour procedure was performed by having special catheters inserted on either side of his groin through the femoral artery, and running them up to Weatherford's heart.

"They cauterized the overactive nodes in my heart," he said. "It went really well, the doctors did an awesome job and I'm ready to roll now."

Weatherford, 27, needs to be on blood thinners for the next two months.

"The only reason for that is that they made some perforations in my heart to make sure I don't have a clot inside my heart," he said. "It's pretty much to make sure I don't die, you know? So, I have to give myself injections (blood thinners) in my abdomen twice a day and take pills."

Weatherford, entering his second season with the Jets after averaging 42 yards a punt, fully participated in voluntary workouts Thursday for the first time since the procedure. He said he was really sore and uncomfortable the two days after the surgery, but started stretching Monday and was able to do light weight lifting Wednesday.

"Today, I did 90 percent of the cardio section of the workout and did 100 percent of the weight workout," he said. "There's just a couple of things I still have to be a little bit mindful of like make sure I didn't do another set until I felt like I had my breath about me because I've been out for a week."

While Weatherford was warming up before the playoff game on Jan. 9, he punted a few balls and suddenly felt his heart racing. Weatherford, who had a previous procedure to control his heartbeat when he was a teenager, alerted Jets team doctors. He had an EKG and was also given beta blockers to slow his heart, but was told he couldn't play.

"To be honest with you, man, I can't believe that ever happened," he said, "but when it did, I thought there was a pretty good chance my career was over."

Weatherford went on medication for the next few weeks after passing medical exams and tinkered with his pregame routine. He was then able to play in the playoff victory at San Diego and in the AFC championship game at Indianapolis.

"I was blessed I could play again," Weatherford said. "It really would've broken my heart if I wouldn't have been able to play the rest of the season and I'm watching my team, who you fought with all year to get to where you're at."

He then opted to have the procedure this offseason to give himself and the team peace of mind.

"The risk of what happened to me in the Cincinnati game is not going to happen again," Weatherford said. "That helps for me, but I'm sure they can rest easier knowing that all of the sudden, I'm not going to be like, 'Oh, I can't punt. My heart's doing the same thing again.'"

Weatherford is now focused on getting into shape and competing with T.J Conley, signed this offseason, for the punting job.

"It'll be good to have him around," Weatherford said. "I enjoy competition and I've competed every year I've been in the league, so it's nothing new to me."