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Colts coach Chuck Pagano expected to attend first game since leukemia diagnosis

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Chuck Pagano at the IPL 500 Festival Parade in May. (Getty Images)

Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano attended his team's facility this week, sat in on meetings, and talked to his players. Under normal circumstances, that hardly qualifies as headline material, but as we all know, what Pagano and the Colts have been going through in the last month is hardly "normal."

Diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 26, Pagano was immediately admitted to Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Center for chemotherapy. He was released in time to watch his Colts beat the Cleveland Browns in Week 7, and things have gone well enough for Pagano to seriously consider watching today's game against the Miami Dolphins from a suite at Lucas Oil Stadium.

This was first announced on Friday via the hyperactive Twitter account of Colts team owner Jim Irsay. NFL.com's Albert Breer said on Sunday morning that the plan is indeed for Pagano to attend the game.

"Chuck is so strong n is endowed with his strength of more than 10 Monsters,that if u happen 2 c him @ LOS on Sun;u wont b imagining things," Irsay tweeted.

Defensive end Cory Redding, who played for Pagano in Baltimore when Pagano was the Ravens' defensive coordinator, said that the coach's visit gave the 4-3 Colts a big lift. "I saw him," Redding told Breer. "It was good, good to see him out of the hospital, out of his house, back in his element. To see him at his desk. ... He had his mask on and his hat, trying to stay germ-free -- but it was good to see him and to talk to him for a bit. When he beats this thing, he's gonna come back like he never missed a beat."

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Receiver Reggie Wayne, who Pagano recruited to Miami sixteen years ago and has always had a special connection with the coach, echoed the sense that if Pagano's in the building, it will be a major inspiration for a team that has surprised a lot of people this year. "Everyone wants to go and continue that journey he started," Wayne said. "We're gonna make him proud. We know he had a tough situation right now, and we feel like if we continue to win games, that'll be a good dose of medicine for him."

The Colts have already doubled their victory total from last year, and irsay gutted the organization after that 2-14 finish in 2011. Pagano was hired in January, and former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians -- another new addition -- has coached the team in Pagano's place with the kind of deft touch you'd think would have other teams calling him in the upcoming offseason and offering him an official promotion.

For now, however, it's all about keeping it together for Pagano. The coach will return to the hospital next week for a second round of chemotherapy, and Arians will remain the interim coach until Pagano is healthy enough to return.

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