Coming off a 22-17 home loss to Jacksonville, they had a 1-2 record and an early bye week. Coach Chuck Pagano, who had been feeling run-down and was bruising a little too easily, followed his wife Tina’s advice (command?) during the down time and visited the doctor.
“I just figured it was football fatigue, the grind of training camp and the season, hours and all that stuff,” he said. “It was a bye week so finally my wife coaxed me into having some tests run and thank God she did.”
One year ago Wednesday, he got the news: he had leukemia.
“It’s hard to believe that I’m sitting there waking up this morning and kissed my wife goodbye and she reminded me and said, ‘Just a year ago today was the day that we had to take that ride downtown and find out what we had.’ It’s hard to believe,” Pagano said Wednesday. “It almost seems surreal to be honest with you. It’s been a year already and we’re sitting here back to normal. I’m very, very lucky.”
As difficult as it was to accept at the time, consider all that has happened since. Pagano has come through treatment with a relatively clean bill of health, though his condition will be monitored closely for a few years.
The Colts, a rebuilding team we all figured was at least two or three years away from contention, went on a remarkable run that started with an improbable comeback victory over the Packers, won 10 of 13 regular season games to reach the playoffs – with a game in Baltimore, Pagano’s former NFL home, no less.
As they prepare to face the Jaguars again, this time coming off a momentous victory in San Francisco, Pagano couldn’t help but take a moment to reflect.“Somebody’s looking out for me because we had the bye week and all that early in the season,” he said. “If it was week eight or week nine or whatever who knows what would have happened but somebody was looking out for me; I know who.”
The circumstances reeked with opportunity for self-pity. Here was a relatively young man with a beautiful family who was just starting his dream job. Just like that, the guy with the world at his fingertips faced the prospect of an empty hand.
Pagano allowed himself a moment to look to the heavens and ask, “Why me?” But only a moment. He took the coach’s approach to this opponent: develop a game plan, execute it precisely and relentlessly, and win.
“I never really took any day for granted before my circumstances,” he said. “I think I just have a heightened awareness and all that stuff for never taking anything for granted. We don’t take a day for granted.
“We’re not promised anything and like our players you never know when you’re going to be lacing up those cleats for the last time, so we’re just trying to get the most out of every day and feel blessed that we have the opportunity.”
To be honest, we didn’t know all that much about Pagano 12 months ago. Now, we know more than we ever could’ve anticipated.
Mainly, that the man knows how to win.
>> There was one surprise on the injury report Wednesday: running back Ahmad Bradshaw did not participate with a neck issue. Bradshaw took a hard hit on the first play of the second quarter in Sunday’s 27-7 win in San Francisco and dropped to his knees but returned to the game and rushed for 95 yards. Bradshaw played most of last season with the Giants with a bulging disc in his neck.
>> Ricky Jean Francois (groin) is likely to miss this week’s game in Jacksonville, Pagano said. The coach hopes LaRon Landry (ankle), Pat Angerer (knee) and Samson Satele (knee) all can return after missing the San Francisco game. Antoine Bethea (toe) also did not practice Wednesday.
>> If Satele can play, he will regain the starting center’s role, Pagano said. Mike McGlynn filled in against the 49ers and fared well. “If he’s healthy and can go, we’ll go with Samson and put Mike back at right guard,” Pagano said.”Feel just as good either way.”
>> Wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers and running back Kerwynn Williams were re-signed to the practice squad Wednesday, and the Colts released wide receiver Danny Coale and running back Miguel Maysonet.