INDIANAPOLIS –Last Saturday provided Colts interim field leader Bruce Arians a chance to catch up with a dear friend.
With the Colts having won their fourth straight game about 48 hours earlier, Arians had a free afternoon. He chose to spend it with Chuck Pagano, a dear friend as well as a boss.
The two spent time watching the sport they love and talking about the team they share, and Arians says there is no doubt the impact Pagano and his absence have had on the Colts.
"Yeah, he and I were talking about it," said Arians if it could be calculated on how much the team has come together through Pagano's illness. "All teams need a purpose, it seems. The really good teams or young teams that get on a roll, they find a purpose.
"It's a shame that this team found a purpose in him getting sick, but the guys don't want to lose for him. They want to win for him. They'll do whatever it takes for us to be successful. (They will) sacrifice whatever it takes to be successful and play their tails off."
Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in late September when the team was 1-2. Now, the Colts are 6-3 and are in the AFC hunt as the regular season progresses. It is hoped Pagano can return for the December 30 finale.
"All we can do is continually try to make this season go further to get him back," said Arians.
There will be trying days for Pagano ahead, just like there will be for his team. More chemotherapy is a reality.
"We spent all Saturday afternoon together watching football games and laughing and talking. He was having a very good day," said Arians. "The chemo is hitting him pretty good. He had a rough day (last Friday). He's anticipating that downward spiral right now to where his numbers will go back down. Then, hopefully, they'll build up quicker than they did the last time. But he's more than ready for it mentally."
Arians has seen the team go 5-1 in Pagano's absence. He knows there is a correlation to his friend's absence and the inspiration the players have gained through the adverse time. Arians says it might have impacted performances.
"I don't know if you know. (There are) so many new faces. I've been on a number of different teams when people start throwing the word 'chemistry' out. It chooses one certain thing that bonds a group together," said Arians. "There's no doubt (denying the situation has made a difference for the team)."
Pagano visited the Colts before and after the Miami game almost two weeks ago. He told the team to play with a purpose and to fight just as he will. The touching moment and Pagano's battling nature have affected players.
"I think if anything, it's reminded guys of a sense of purpose, a sense of being here and enjoying it, enjoying each other," said quarterback Andrew Luck. "Obviously, I wish it didn't happen by any means, but I guess maybe it's a reminder to some guys."
Safety Tom Zbikowski has known Pagano since the two were in Baltimore. Zbikowski has helped the team win five of six in Pagano's absence and he believes what was instilled by the coach is coming out through the players on Sundays.
"I think it was just our leader, what a lot of the guys on this team bought into early," said Zbikowski. "It wasn't that we were trying to do anything extra or out of the ordinary. It was just I think a certain time that maybe it was a pivotal moment that a team started bonding, became one team, one family."
Trying to explain what is not visible caused tackle Anthony Castonzo to pause. The biochemistry graduate of Boston College has a wealth of laboratory experience on which to draw and if the matter is not specific in measure, he knows what he feels.
"I don't there's any way to quantify it. It's kind of a like an unseen thing," said Castonzo. "It's just the fact that it seems whenever there comes a point where we need to fight, it's like Chuck's fighting. It's just an inspiration for us each and every day.
"I think we'd have a winning team one way or the other, but it is an inspiration to constantly move forward. We'll be able to tell at the end of the season just how much of a difference it really did make."
Robert Mathis has played for Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell during his Colts years. Just the same way Dungy and Caldwell knew what to touch in each player, Pagano has the same knack.
"I could say yes. I could say no," on if this situation spawned the current four-game winning streak. "One thing I can say, he has instilled that go-to-work, grab-your-lunchpail mentality in us. That's what we do, each and every week.
"He expects guys to get the job done without him. He expects that, and we have to carry those orders out. Trust me, he's coaching from afar. He's here, he's just not here physically."
PERSONNEL UPDATE -- The Colts today signed linebacker Shawn Loiseau and tight end Martell Webb to the practice squad. Guard Hayworth Hicks was signed to the New York Jets active roster off the Colts practice squad.
Loiseau, 6-0, 239 pounds, was originally signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent on May 14, 2012 before being waived on August 31. As a senior at Merrimack College, Loiseau led the team with 121 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He was named Northeast-10 Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Conference performer.
Webb, 6-3, 276 pounds, was originally signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent on July 26, 2011 and was released on August 29. After spending time on New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squads, Webb signed with the Arizona Cardinals on January 5, 2012 and was waived on August 31.
Webb was a four-year letterman at Michigan and played in 38 games, making three starts at tight end. For his career, he caught nine passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
Hicks signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent on April 30, 2012. He was waived on August 31 and signed to the practice squad on September 1.