INDIANAPOLIS - Chuck Pagano has had an opportunity to look in the rear-view mirror, but the Indianapolis Colts' head coach is still getting accustomed to looking directly into a mirror.
"I'm doing great. Hair's coming back in, it's a little gnarly," said Pagano. "Can't find a gel that's working, but my wife is helping me out a little bit."
Sidelined from coaching duties from Sept. 26 to Dec. 23 to undergo leukemia treatment, Pagano's first season in Indianapolis and debut as an NFL head coach was derailed by a potentially life-threatening disease. He continues picking up the pieces personally and professionally.
The start of the offseason brought another huge change for Pagano and the Colts when offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was hired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Arians served as interim head coach of the Colts last season for the 12 games Pagano missed.
"You look at it, and the first game I was away they came back from a 21-3 deficit to beat Green Bay here at home," Pagano said. "Then they had a devastating loss, but never lost two games in a row."
Pagano will continue a cycle of medical for up to three years. If he makes it five years without cancer, Pagano said he'll get a certificate and badge - a literal clean bill of health - from his team of physicians led by Dr. Larry Cripe in Indianapolis.
He's in the office daily and other than joking that he would have fewer media sessions under doctor's order, does not anticipate being restricted. That doesn't mean he's good as new just yet.
"I don't know if that will ever be the same," Pagano said. "I feel pretty normal now. Whether it'll ever be exactly the same, I don't think it'll ever be that way, I don't know. I good where I'm at right now."
The Colts will not re-sign defensive end Dwight Freeney and expect to continue frugal free agent spending with a focus on building using youth via the draft. Several rookies - top pick Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in particular - delivered "veteran-level production" last season.
"We set our expectations high," Pagano said of surprising pundits in 2012. "We knew where everybody basically had us based on all the turnover - front office, coaching staff. We are going to continue setting the bar high."