NFL coaches say the stress that leads to events like Mike Ditka's heart attack is just part of the game.

"You try to win. That's the only thing that relieves the stress," said San Diego Chargers Coach Al Saunders on Thursday."We're in this job because we love it," he said. "I'd say every head coach to a man would not want to do anything else. We're all high-emotion, high-intensity people."

The job itself also can provide an outlet for stress, he said.

"The nature of our job allows for the release of a lot of emotion. The day-to-day dealings allow you to release emotion in a verbal and physical way.

"Lord knows, Mike expresses his emotions," Saunders said.

Minnesota Vikings coach Jerry Burns believes Ditka's personality, more than his job, may have set the stage for the Chicago coach's Wednesday heart attack.

"Mike is just more excitable," Burns said. "I don't think it had anything to do with football, really. ... It could have happened to him if he was a car salesman or insurance salesman.

"Coaching is no more stressful than being in management at a place like Honeywell or 3M," said Burns.

Gene Stallings, coach of the Phoenix Cardinals, said he understands how much pressure Ditka was under.

"It's surprising there are not more of them," Stallings said of the attack that sidelined Ditka. "You hear of the stress all the time. And the bad eating habits. I should know about that. And you don't get a lot of sleep with a job like this."

Ditka, 49, the Bears coach since 1982, suffered a mild heart attack Wednesday following a workout at the team's suburban Lake Forest practice complex. His condition was upgraded to fair Thursday.

Steve Kazor, an assistant Bears coach, was one of two coaches who brought Ditka to the hospital. He said the episode caused him to reflect on how much time and effort goes into the job.

"You get here at 4 o'clock in the morning Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," Kazor said. "I get home late at night. ... There's always the pressure of trying to win a game. The peaks and valleys are just unbelievable."

The Bears won two weeks ago on a Monday night, beating a highly touted San Francisco team 10-9, then lost Sunday to lowly New England 30-7.

Tom Landry, coach of the Dallas Cowboys and Ditka's former boss, said there's "no question" that stress is a part of the job - especially when fans get unhappy.

Landry said he follows an exercise program three to four times a week to keep in shape.

Landry, who employed Ditka as an assistant coach for nine years, has been the subject of newspaper polls asking fans if he should retire.

"That's where most of the pressure comes from - from outside," Landry said. "When you're losing football games, everybody's on you. The media's on you, the fans are on you. That's where most of the stress comes from."