The Colts’ rallying cry this week is more like this: Win one, period.
Though their leukemia-stricken head coach will be in their hearts and minds this week – and many to come – the Colts know they cannot allow emotion to become their driving force against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“The one thing I think we have to be very aware of is not getting overexcited, overhyped to try to do something extra,” said Bruce Arians, the interim coach. “We don’t need to do anything extra, we just need to play, coach, prepare every day like we have and not get caught up with snot bubbles and tears. They don’t beat anybody. We all want to win the game for a lot of reasons but we can’t put extra expectations on it because of what has happened. …
“As the week progresses, more and more it’s going to be ‘try to win this game for Chuck’ and Chuck doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want to put extra pressure on these guys. Just win the game because we want to win the game and that will be extreme icing on the cake to give him that birthday present.”
Pagano, who turned 52 Tuesday, will be hospitalized at least six weeks while receiving chemotherapy and other associated treatment in what Dr. Larry Cripe of the Simon Cancer Center at Indiana University Hospital called a “protected environment.”
Even if he does achieve a full remission from the Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APML), it is unlikely Pagano would return to the sideline at any point this season.
Which means the 1-2 Colts must do their best to put aside thoughts and concerns about their head coach and get down to business.
“Obviously, you try to put it aside a bit, as cold as that sounds,” said quarterback Andrew Luck. “All of the guys, our thoughts are with him in everything we do, we break it down after practice on ‘Chuck,’ I think a lot of guys are going to be playing for him for a lot of games to come.
“But I think we also realize he’d be disappointed in us if we weren’t putting full effort into practice and maybe getting too low about what’s going on or too emotional about it. You try to go to work, try to do right and put the work in because that’s what he would want.
“There will be a little bit of a focus to try not to get too emotional, understanding to just go out there and play. Coach Pagano wouldn’t want us crying about him before the game or blowing snot bubbles about the situation. And I don’t think we will.”
Three of the five injured starters practiced Wednesday: linebackers Pat Angerer (foot) and Dwight Freeney (ankle) and center Samson Satele (knee). Guard Joe Reitz (knee) and cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle) did not practice, and neither did nickel back Justin King (groin).
Arians said Reitz was in “wait and see” mode, while Davis and King are “day to day.”
“They’re progressing nicely,” Arians said of the defensive backs. “They’re close.”
If Davis can’t go, Cassius Vaughn likely would step in at left cornerback. Jeff Linkenbach is the probable replacement for Reitz at left guard.