Updated: December 24, 2012, 4:33 PM ET
Chuck Pagano was so eager to get back to work Monday, he was the first one to show up at team headquarters.
Long before meeting with his players, the Colts first-year coach drove quietly into the complex, walked into the office where the lights have remained on for nearly three months and began preparing for Sunday’s game against AFC South champion Houston like it was another at the day office.
Hardly. It was the biggest milestone yet in an incredibly emotional season in which Pagano has beaten leukemia and the Colts have been a most pleasant surprise in reaching the playoffs under interim coach Bruce Arians.
“I asked him if he would … take over the reins and what a masterful, masterful job you did, Bruce,” Pagano said with Arians nearby at the news conference. “You carried the torch and all you went out and did was win ballgames, you got our 10th win yesterday and you got us into the playoffs and you did it with dignity and you did it with class. I can’t thank you enough.”
Players, coaches and staff members had been anticipating this day from the moment they learned Pagano was taking an indefinite leave to fight cancer, Oct. 1.
So when the 52-year-old first-time head coach returned, the 24-hour rule was cast aside — giving the Colts (10-5) another 24 hours to celebrate something far more important than reaching the playoffs.
“I know Chuck is ready for this challenge,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said. “I know the time is right for him to grab the reins and get the head coaching cap on and begin the journey.
“The great thing about the National Football League is that so much attention gets paid to it, so many other things happen beside win and losses and the inspiration Chuck has shown to others and the time Chuck has spent connecting with others, it really is miraculous. It’s a fairytale story, it’s a Hollywood script, it’s all of those things.” …
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