Even though Chuck Pagano might not be with the team physically in the next few weeks, his presence will live on thanks to a pair of players who have known him for more than just his tenure as the Colts’ head coach.





INDIANAPOLIS – The voice that brought safety Tom Zbikowski to Indianapolis this offseason was not heard at the team's Monday morning full-squad meeting.

Zbikowski and his Colts teammates sat waiting for Head Coach Chuck Pagano to address the club following its bye week.  Instead, the players received the shocking news that their leader would not be with them for the next several weeks.

With emotions running through his head, Zbikowski could not help but think back to earlier this year when he received the phone call from Pagano inquiring about the two joining forces again in Indianapolis.

"I thought back to when (Pagano) got the head coaching job and free agency opened up," Zbikowski said.  "Once he called me, once I heard his voice and knew that he was interested in me, I knew then, probably a month before I was going to sign, I was going to be an Indianapolis Colt.  I've got a lot to be thankful for, and I owe it a lot to him."

When Pagano made his return to the NFL in 2008, he coached Zbikowski for three seasons in the Baltimore Ravens' secondary.

Last season as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, Pagano took on an even greater role in coaching Zbikowski.

This offseason, Zbikowski was one of three former Ravens defenders who followed their coach to Indianapolis and listening to them on Monday, it became pretty evident how much their head coach means to them.

"I shot (Pagano) a text, just wanted to let him know I'm thinking about him, just hoping for the best," Zbikowski said.  "He's fighting.  He's a fighter, so he's going to take care of it.  I know he'll be healthy."

Colts defensive end Cory Redding has been a constant voice this season for a young team, and he shared his thoughts on the relationship Pagano has forged with him since their time in Baltimore.

"Chuck has always told us as a defensive unit, 'Don't play with fear.  Don't go out and think about you're going to make a mistake.  Play full-speed and if you make a mistake, it's on me,' " Redding said to Bob Lamey on Monday night's Pagano Show.

"Chuck is going to go out there and he is going to compete with this leukemia, and he is not going to go at it with fear.  He's going to go out there at full-speed, and let them know that he is going to battle this thing every single day.  That's the thing that he taught us as players, and I believe he is going to take that mindset into this situation."

Pagano has stated that during the offseason when trying to find niches for the new hybrid 3-4 defense, he looked for someone who could do the job on and off the field.

That mold is an ideal fit for Redding, and he has relished in being in a leadership role for a relatively inexperienced Colts squad.

His leadership will only take on a greater role this week, and Redding will look to "his general" for the type of spirit that is needed during trying times.

"He works at his best when all the chips are down," Redding said of Pagano.  "When it seems like everybody is saying, 'You can't do this,' he's just going to say, 'I've got a heart of a champion, and I'm going to do this.'  There isn't any doubt in my mind that he's going to beat it."

Throughout the Colts' locker room on Monday, players new and old talked about the foundation that Pagano has laid which will be carried on during his physical absence.

To those who had played for Pagano prior to Indianapolis, it is no surprise to see the impact their head coach has had with every man on the Colts roster.

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"I just think it speaks volumes of his character and what type of coach he wanted to be," Zbikowski said of Pagano.

"He wanted to have a player-coach relationship that was tighter than anyone else's.  He held conversations with people.  He brought it every single day, excitement, humor, stuff that's hard to replace.  That's how he was as a position coach.  That's how he was as a defensive coordinator and immediately how he was here."

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