Jim Harbaugh: He saw the last part of practice Thursday, the day of his procedure.

After heart procedure, 49ers' Harbaugh foresees normal routine

Published: Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 - 8:40 am

SANTA CLARA – Touchy-feely introspection about his heart and his long-term health?

Jim Harbaugh wanted none of that one day after undergoing a procedure to shock his heart back into a normal rhythm. The 49ers' coach said he might adjust his diet – less caffeine, perhaps – after his second scare with an irregular heartbeat in the last 13 years but otherwise, he didn't foresee any changes to how he approaches his job.

"No limits," Harbaugh said Friday. "Going about everything as normal."

The motto of the Harbaugh clan is, "Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind," and Harbaugh was his usual, energetic self Friday, his players reported. In fact, he didn't even wait a day before returning to work.

After experiencing a fluttering heartbeat Wednesday evening, Harbaugh was checked out at Stanford Hospital. Late Thursday morning, he underwent a cardioversion procedure whereby electric impulses are used to get the heart beating normally.

By Thursday afternoon, he was on his way to Santa Clara to watch the last hour of the team's afternoon practice.

"He just couldn't leave us the whole day," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "He just had to come back here and show us he was healthy."

Fullback Bruce Miller said Harbaugh acted as if nothing had happened.

"He'd never show a weakness to us, so he definitely downplayed it," Miller said. "He's not slowing down. He was just as fired up and as intense as he always is this morning."

Harbaugh said missing just one day of practice had a nightmarish quality.

"It's like I've had that dream before many times where you're supposed to be taking a test, or the team's out there practicing and you're not out there," he said. "So just glad to be out here."

Harbaugh said he had a more severe episode with an irregular heartbeat 13 years ago when he was a quarterback with the Chargers.

He said he had an ablation, in which a catheter is used to scar or destroy the heart tissue that triggers an abnormal rhythm. He said that procedure was in August that year and he may have missed a couple of practices.

"The atrial flutter is something I've had for a while, probably pretty close to all my life," Harbaugh said.

NFL coaches have notoriously demanding schedules during the season, and Harbaugh said recently his weekend off for the 49ers' bye was the first he'd had since the beginning of training camp in July.

Harbaugh joins a list of NFL head coaches who have been sidelined – briefly – by heart ailments. That group includes Mike Martz, Bill Parcells and Dan Reeves, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery at age 54 but returned to coach less than four weeks later when he was with the Atlanta Falcons.

One of Harbaugh's former coaches, Mike Ditka, had a heart attack when Harbaugh was with the Bears in 1988. Ditka, who was 49, missed just one game.

Harbaugh, one of the league's most animated coaches during games, turns 49 next month.

He said his doctor at Stanford cautioned him about a healthy diet and minimizing caffeine, and that he was taking "aspirin and a couple of other ones" following his procedure. But he said the doctors didn't mention reducing stress.

"Peel back the onion and get a little introspective?" Harbaugh said when asked about whether his episode has him thinking about "big-picture" concepts.

"No, I really haven't," he said. "Just want to do what I'm supposed to do and get back to living."

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