ST. PETERSBURG — Jeff Tedford was ready and willing to resume his duties as Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator with five games to play this season, he said, but was persuaded not to by coach Lovie Smith.
“When I let them know I was ready to come back, Lovie felt like it would kind of disrupt the continuity,’’ Tedford said Wednesday while taking in an East-West Shrine Game practice at Shorecrest Preparatory School.
“And then they kind of let me know that they really couldn’t commit to me for another year. I don’t know if they were apprehensive because of my health or what, but that was kind of it.’’
Tedford, 53, was hired by Smith to be the offensive coordinator last January, but he never coached a regular-season game after undergoing a heart procedure in August.
Tedford, who had two stents placed in an artery near his heart, took an extended leave of absence a month later and mutually parted ways with the team in early December.
Smith did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.
“Throughout these difficult circumstances, our primary concern was for Jeff’s health and well-being,” Smith said in the December statement announcing Tedford’s departure.
“After speaking with Jeff in recent days, it became obvious that a mutual decision to release him from his contract was the best way forward. We wish Jeff continued success in the next phase of his career.”
The next phase of Tedford’s career will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Tedford is the head coach of the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League.
Tedford said on Wednesday, though, that his departure from the Bucs stemmed mostly from a complication associated with his heart problem that altered the capacity in which he could have returned to the team in September.
“I mentioned to Lovie that I still had some issues and that I’d love to stick around and do what I can, but that I was in no position to coordinate at the time,” Tedford said. “And he (said), ‘You’re the voice, you’re the leader, if you can’t do that role you need to take a leave of absence.’ That’s when I said, OK, I’ll do that, not knowing how long things were going to take.’’
Tedford said the medications he was prescribed after the heart procedure, plus those he took to deal with the complication, combined to make it virtually impossible for him to do his job.
“I was on a lot of medication, eight different medications, and they can mess with you,’’ Tedford said. “So, I was really tired all the time. ...The process was getting them balanced out, getting back to where you need to be, and then wean off of them again. And that’s when, with about five weeks left, I felt good and felt I was 100 percent.’’
Tedford certainly didn’t feel 100 percent the morning of the Bucs’ preseason game against Buffalo in August. That was when he first realized he had some health issues that needed to be addressed.
“I’m in my hotel room and I blacked out. But I didn’t tell anybody about it,’’ Tedford said. “Because the third preseason game is so important, I didn’t want to have any distractions. So I did my best to get through it.”
During the plane ride back to Tampa, when he would usually review the game on an iPad, Tedford slept. He also had arm shakes. When the symptoms returned the next morning, he said, he told Smith.
Tedford said he was rushed to the hospital and, initially, there was a debate among doctors whether to treat the issue by doing bypass surgery or implanting stents.
“I was lucky they were just stents and lucky they found it before anything serious happened,’’ Tedford said. “But I felt really bad (about not being with the team).’’
Tedford said he stayed in contact with coaches and even quarterback Josh McCown, mostly via text messages, for several weeks. He had every intention of returning to work late in the season until he met with Smith.
“In the end, I had to agree with Lovie that it would have been very hard to go back into the room and try to be the coordinator,’’ Tedford said. “So, we just decided at that point that if we really don’t have a direction that we’re all going in next year, we should part ways.’’