|Pagano was diagnosed with treatable leukemia and will miss a few weeks. (US Presswire)|
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with treatable leukemia, a team source tells CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, and as a result the first-year head coach will miss several of Indianapolis' games.
The Colts announced Pagano's condition on Monday, confirming that the coach had been diagnosed with "acute leukemia." Owner Jim Irsay said it was "unlikely" that Pagano would return to coach in his full capacity this season, and that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would take over in the interim.
"It's unlikely that [Pagano] will be all in as a head coach this season," Irsay said at a press conference Monday. "There's peaks and valleys. And once you get better, there's more chemotherapy and it's a process of really getting back to yourself. We know the demands of this league, it's one of the most demanding jobs you can have in this country. So Bruce Arians is going to be our interim. It was Chuck's wishes and certainly had my blessing and Ryan's blessing on that."
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Freeman originally reported that Pagano was expected to miss at least a month on the heels of Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star first reporting that Pagano had a "serious illness."
However, Pagano's doctor, Dr. Larry D. Cripe, put a damper on any optimistic projections for Pagano's return when discussing his recovery.
"Now I'm not a big NFL fan, but I know the life of a coach is pretty arduous," Cripe said Monday. "I don't know when he'll feel well enough to resume full responsibilities but I know he's anxious to return in any capacity he can. The induction phase of the treatment will last about four-to-six weeks from when we started last Wednesday. During that time he will complete chemotherapy, he will remain on the medicine and we will support him through this with transfusions, antibiotics and other medicines to minimize the side effects and potential complications of treatment.
"He will be allowed to go home when he's feeling better and his blood counts are safe to be out and about and he doesn't require further transfusions. Most people with this variety of acute leukemia will do in fact achieve a complete remission."
So that's the good news, and the reason why Irsay said he's "optimistic" for Pagano's full recovery. But Cripe said that even after Pagano returns home, he'll go through "months of chemotherapy," which likely means Pagano won't be doing any serious NFL coaching any time soon.
"Everyone here is stunned," a Colts source told Freeman on Monday. "We're devastated but we're also hopeful Chuck will be back and healthy."
Irsay, as he is wont to do, addressed Pagano's health on his Twitter account ahead of the presser.
Colts n all NFL Fans..keep Coach Chuck n his family in your prayers..He is fighting with courageous energy n faith and WILL win this battle!— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) October 1, 2012
Irsay and Colts GM Ryan Grigson hired Pagano this offseason after just a single year at the helm of the Ravens defense. With limited resources and a big-time turnaround on his hands, Pagano did an impressive job of keeping the Colts competitive early in the season.
He'll need his coaching staff to step up now and continue the improvement. The selection of Arians is a wise one -- it makes a lot of sense particularly for the continued development of Andrew Luck as a franchise quarterback.
In the meantime, Pagano can focus on getting healthy (obviously the more important aspect of this story) and let the folks with the Colts worry about the football games. If they have it their way, the first one without him -- against Green Bay next week -- will result in a present being delivered to Pagano's hospital room.
"Chuck is very dear to this organization. The special thing about Chuck is he's a salt of the Earth man," Irsay said. "He's going to be greatly missed in terms of his intensity, his energy, his leadership -- the things that made him the guy Ryan and I selected as our head coach. He has had the chance three or four weeks into the season where he's set the tone for the coaches, the players.
"And meeting with the team, meeting with the coaches, there's nothing more than we want than having a Green Bay ball, a victory ball, and walking it into the hospital and putting it in his hands."
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