INDIANAPOLIS –A sense of normalcy returned to the Colts on Monday when Head Coach Chuck Pagano was back for the first time in three months.
Wednesday marked Pagano's first practice with the team since September and with about eight inches of snow on the ground and the chance for more, there was plenty of white to go with the blue coaching garb he wore.
"It was exciting. Just walking in the indoor (facility) and seeing the guys out there again and being with them (was fun)," said Pagano. "Any time you just get removed from where you're supposed to be on a daily basis (you miss it). I've been doing this for the last 28 years of my life and then all of the sudden to be taken away from what you love to do (is hard)."
Indianapolis endured blizzard conditions that called for six-to-12 inches of snow, and the storm, with winds up to 40-miles-per-hour, began around 5:30 a.m.
Pagano reached the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center in bone-dry conditions, while those who arrived a bit later were more challenged.
Pagano kept the players' schedule the same, which meant practice concluded around 3:45 p.m. How long afterward Pagano would remain is something he will have to work out as he continues to rebound physically from a successful fight with leukemia.
"I've had lengthy discussions with my doctor about that," said Pagano. "The first couple days have been great as far as from a football standpoint, just being back in the fold and back at work, going back to meetings and things like that and sitting in on different things.
"The amount of time that I'm putting in, I'm going to get up early and get in here and get ready just like everybody else. To say I can come back right now and work 15-18 hour days wouldn't be smart on my part. I've just got to keep an eye on it and make sure that I monitor it and don't put myself back where I just came from."
Antoine Bethea wants things to keep going smoothly for the 10-5 Colts, but he joins others in sensing a different feel with Pagano's return.
"It's really just getting everything back to normal," said Bethea. "For the most part, I think everybody in the building is just happy to have him back on an everyday basis, back on the practice field with us. We just want to keep things rolling like we've had, but (with) an added sense of happiness with Chuck being back."
Pagano's return brought big attention on Monday but by today, Dwight Freeney noticed the same routine as always.
"Believe it or not for me, it's been kind of a normal feeling," said Freeney. "We are excited to have him back, but seeing him back didn't feel weird. It felt like, 'This is the way it's supposed to be.' The coaching staff is business as usual to be honest with you."
The Colts were 9-3 in Pagano's absence and have nailed down the AFC's fifth playoff seed with one game remaining. Pagano does not feel his return will be any distraction.
"I don't think so," said Pagano. "I think that's kind of the way things worked out, the timing of the whole thing.
"We've had our meeting and our time to reflect. I think that's behind the guys now. Our attention, our total focus is on the next game, our next opponent, the Texans. It's business as usual."
One bit of return to business for Pagano was having to discuss injuries, a topic dear to all coaches' hearts. He said center Samson Satele and running back Delone Carter will miss the Houston game. Other players with injuries – wide receiver Donnie Avery, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, defensive end Cory Redding, linebacker Kavell Conner – are day-to-day.