Richardson recovering from transplant

Updated: February 2, 2009, 8:54 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was recovering Monday after a heart transplant.

Jerry Richardson
Chris Keane/Icon SMIJerry Richardson has pulled through heart transplant surgery and faces recovery time of 3 to 6 months.

The team issued a statement that said the 72-year-old Richardson underwent a five-hour procedure overnight at Carolinas Medical Center. He had been on a heart transplant list since December.

Team officials said Richardson was resting comfortably Monday morning in the hospital's post-operative cardiovascular recovery unit.

Dr. Mark Stiegel, one of the doctors who performed the surgery, said "the donor heart was working well." The normal recovery time is three to six months, the team said.

Team spokesman Charlie Dayton said Richardson was notified Sunday about 5 p.m. that a donor heart was available and his surgery began around 8 p.m.

Richardson was told he needed the transplant during a hospital stay related to the installation of a pacemaker. He then was placed on a donor waiting list. He has a history of heart trouble and underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2002.

He attended the Panthers' game against Denver on Dec. 14.

The only NFL owner to have played in the league -- Richardson is a former receiver for the Baltimore Colts -- he caught the winning touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas in the 1959 NFL championship game. He was awarded the expansion Panthers in 1993, becoming the first former player to own an NFL team since George Halas, the longtime owner of the Chicago Bears.

Richardson's sons, Mark and Jon, play major roles in running the team and Bank of America Stadium, which is also owned by Richardson.

Richardson's stamp on the franchise is visible everywhere. The team holds training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., his alma mater, and the team's stadium has strict rules for fan conduct.

Richardson, nicknamed "Big Cat," is known for taking newly drafted players on a golf-cart ride of the grounds at Bank of America Stadium, giving a stern pep talk about the proper behavior he expects from his players.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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