INDIANAPOLIS – It is the same spirit Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson was attracted to in January that he believes will carry Head Coach Chuck Pagano for a battle off the field that was unforeseen to anyone.
This fight for Pagano comes away from the gridiron, but Grigson has no doubt that the man he helped choose for the Colts’ head coaching position earlier this year will be able to defeat a horrific opponent – Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APML).
“That same fighting spirit that Chuck has and he’s instilled in this team, in this organization, is the same spirit that he’s going to carry through this fight, and put him back on that field that he loves and what he was born to do – that’s to coach football and to bring passion and love of the game to those players, and leadership and ultimately wins,” Grigson said.
The Colts’ general manager spent time with Pagano and his wife over the weekend and sees the same attitude Pagano established in the Colts organization beginning to take charge in his fight with leukemia.
“Chuck has helped lay a foundation of family, trust, loyalty and respect. In a short time we feel that foundation is strong enough to shoulder these trying times,” Grigson said.
“In just talking with his wife, Tina, last night, we feel confident in that foundation that Chuck has laid with these players, and they know how much that he cares about him. That’s real. You can’t fake that stuff.”
It was an unexpected return from a bye week for Colts players. They were informed of the devastating news early Monday morning.
The coaching staff was informed as well, with Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians adding the tag of “interim head coach” to his duties during Pagano’s absence.
Grigson said the decision to name Arians interim coach was made quickly, largely due to the fact of the veteran leadership he provides.
“(Arians) has a great synergy with the staff and with Chuck. He’s going to be able to bridge that gap between Chuck and himself and this team because they have a brotherhood on that staff like I’ve never seen,” Grigson said. “Chuck’s our brother, and we are all here for him. Bruce is the man to lead us forward while our leader is down. Until (Pagano) comes back, Bruce Arians will carry that torch and lead that charge.”
With the staff being informed on Monday morning, Grigson said he is not sure how exactly the rest of the coaching duties will work out between now and Sunday’s game against Green Bay.
Even with that uncertainty, Grigson is not worried about how that will unfold. He knows Pagano’s staff shares a tight bond and a strong work ethic.
“There is such a closeness to that staff, everyone is going to pick up the ball and run with it. They are all going to come together,” Grigson said. “I saw it already this morning with them. Whoever needs to shoulder more is going to shoulder more. Whoever is going to take on a new role is going to take on a new role.”
No matter how the roles break down on the staff, each member will be striving for the same goal of giving the same type of effort that would follow as if Pagano were with them each step of the way.
Pagano might not be on the field with the Colts on Sunday, but his personality has been and will continue to be ingrained with this team.
“As we talked to the players this morning, the best medicine for him is for the team to continue to fight four quarters and to show him what he said is still in existence, and it will be,” Grigson said.
“We have a fighter in the midst of this fight that we have great confidence in. I just ask that everyone keeps him and his family in (their) thoughts and prayers, because they (the Pagano family) are just starting this journey. This building is a family, and I knew that from day one. That is what’s going to keep everyone strong and ultimately help Chuck through this, along with that team out there.”