Legendary former Bears coach Mike Ditka is recovering in a Chicago-area hospital after suffering a “very minor stroke” Friday.
“I feel good right now and it’s not a big deal,” said the tougher-than-nails Ditka, 73. He was playing cards Friday at a country club when he noticed his hands “weren’t working quite right,” and then he had trouble speaking. He’s not had any major health problems in recent years, but had a heart attack back in 1988 when he was still coaching the Bears.
Ditka won’t be doing his ESPN work this weekend, the network said. The former coach also owns a restaurant, Ditka’s, in Chicago.
The coach has said after he had his heart attack, at 49, he was “embarrassed” by the experience. He said then:
I don’t know what I experienced. I think I almost experienced embarrassment. It kind of was embarrassing that it happened to me. I mean, how could this ever happen to me? That’s the way I felt in the beginning, and then it didn’t matter. I mean it was so bad at a certain point that I knew that we’re just mortals. I mean, we’re here for a while and then we’re gone. It can happen to anybody at any time. It was a very humbling feeling after that, believe me.
Ditka was also a Hall of Fame tight end, after the Bears made him the fifth overall pick in the 1961 draft out of Pittsburgh, the Chicago Tribune reports. He went on to five straight Pro Bowls for “da Bears.”
He was traded to the Eagles in 1967 and finished his playing career with the Cowboys. But in 1982, Chicago owner-coach George Halas hired Ditka to coach, and he held the job until 1992, when he was fired after a 5-11 season. Ditka then coached the New Orleans Saints for three years, and retired with a 121-95 record before turning to broadcasting and celebrity appearances.