INDIANAPOLIS – The topic of Chuck Pagano never is far away from any conversation at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, and Pagano certainly never is off anyone’s mind as he battles leukemia.
Pagano joined the Colts in January and quickly built bonds throughout the organization with his warm and sincere nature.
It was an easy process for players to buy into the football program, and the entire organization felt a pull when he was part of the process that incorporated the words, ‘Trust, Loyalty, Respect,’ around the outside of the club’s iconic logo as it was displayed around the training complex.
Words from Pagano never are hollow. They are as real as the man himself.
Those in and around the organization know it and many others were witnesses as well when his post-game comments to his victorious team were beamed worldwide after the Colts beat Miami three weeks ago.
Rarely does a press session go by that Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians is not asked about an update on the beloved team leader. On Wednesday, Arians was not sure whether or not Pagano will visit his team this Sunday.
“I have not heard. He’s taking another drug that was causing a lot of problems in the hospital,” said Arians. “He has to go back on it. I don’t know the name of it. It was causing some severe headaches when he was in the hospital.
“He has to start that drug Friday, so we’re waiting to see how that reacts. But he’s feeling really good, he looked really good the other day.”
Arians and Pagano are true buddies, and it has been a tough, though exhilarating, experience to pinch-hit under such circumstances.
In visiting with Western New York media by phone on Wednesday, Arians described the usual communication he has with Pagano.
“We have daily conversations, texts back and forth, talks,” said Arians. “He’s got all the tapes. He’s watching them at home and the practices and the games and talking with (defensive coordinator) Greg (Manusky) about the defense. He and I will talk about the team and different personnel moves.
“His presence is always here. His light is on in his office and will never be turned off until he comes back. That is the signal that it’s his football team, I’m just expanding my leadership role. I’m not the head coach. He’s the head coach, and a great one. His influence is on these guys and when he’s able to come around, the players just light up.”
His pre-game visit to the locker room prior to the Miami game was a moving experience. His post-game visit was a joy, and the world witnessed the emotion.
Arians is a football lifer, getting his coaching start just after concluding a playing career in college.
He has spent 20 years in the league and said if circumstances were put aside that he enjoys what this year has forced him to do.
“I’d be lying if I said, ‘No.’ Yeah, I don’t like the way it happened, obviously, but, yeah, under the circumstances, I’m enjoying every minute of it,” said Arians. “(I) didn’t know that I would ever get an opportunity to do this, and (I’m) blessed to be in this organization at this time.”
Where he is is with the “interim head coach” tag applied to his offensive coordinator’s title. Arians cannot wait for his friend and boss to return. He knows who the head coach is, and players have noticed how well Arians has carried out Pagano’s approach.
“I think he understands Chuck’s message and his way of doing things better than any of us,” said quarterback
“I think BA understands that very well and does a good job of maybe in his own words making sure we understand it. It’s not going to be the same, exact verbiage that Coach Pagano would use, or the same mannerisms, but I think it’s the same message. He understands it very well, has a great feel for it and does a great job of making sure we understand it.”
Happy Thanksgiving, coach. Hope we see you on Sunday.