In an NFL year that's been full of bounties, PED suspensions, and some sad and senseless deaths, here's some legitimately wonderful news, just in time for Christmas: Chuck Pagano, the Indianapolis Colts head coach who was diagnosed with leukemia in September, has been medically cleared to return to work, and will hope to be back on the sideline for the team's regular-season finale against the Houston Texans. That game will take place on Dec. 30, at the Colts' home of Lucas Oil Stadium.
According to Mike Chappell of IndyStar.com, Pagano is expected to return to the Colts' complex on a full-time basis next Monday, if he feels physically ready to do so.
"Medically he's 99 percent recovered from my standpoint. I have placed him on no restrictions," said Dr. Larry Cripe, the specialist that has been working with Pagano. "He's cleared. He's working out, doing well, eating well, buffing up...got to look good on that sideline. From talking to him, I can tell you he’s back to his fighting weight.’’
On Nov. 5, Cripe announced that Pagano's leukemia was in remission, and he completed his treatment on Dec. 4.
Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia on Sept. 25 and hospitalized immediately. The team announced the diagnosis on Oct. 1. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians took over for Pagano and has led the team at a Coach of the Year level, taking a franchise that was 2-14 in 2011 and gutted in the offseason to a 9-5 record, and a legitimate chance at the AFC playoffs.
The Colts travel to Arrowhead Stadium this week, and play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
The #Chuckstrong campaign put together by the Colts organization has raised money and awareness in the fight against leukemia, and as Pagano started to feel better, he became even more of an inspiration to his team. Pagano visited the Colts at their home stadium for the first time after his diagnosis on Nov. 4, and spoke to his players and coaches in the locker room following Indy's 23-20 win over the Miami Dolphins.
"I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in vision, and you weren't living in circumstances," Pagano said. "Because you know where they had us in the beginning -- every last one of them. But you refused to live in circumstances, and you decided consciously, as a team and as a family, to live in a vision. And that's why you bring things home like you brought things home today. That's why you're already champions, and well on your way.
"I've got circumstances -- you guys understand it, and I understand it. It's already beat. And my vision that I'm living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings, and then hoist that Lombardi [Trophy] several times.
"I'm dancing at two more weddings, and we're hoisting that trophy together, men."
So far, so good. Welcome back, Coach.
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