After serving as an inspiration to his team all season, the road for Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to return has been cleared. According to he Associated Press, Pagano had been cleared to return.
“Chuckstrong” was a message you saw all over the Indianapolis Lucas Oil Stadium. And that inspiration has led the Colts to a 9-5 record, second in their division and almost locking in a wild card birth.
“Medically, I see no reason he cannot come back when he’s ready to try and come back,” Dr. Larry Cripe said. “Coach has done a great job with this, and I trust him.”
If he were to return this weekend, it would be the first time Pagano has been on the sidelines since September 23rd, a loss to Jacksonville. Dr. Cripe said he’d enjoy witnessing his return in person.
“I love that guy and I would love to see him in person on the sideline,” Cripe said. “To me, the bottom line is that he’s done what he needed to do, and he’s done it with the clear goal that he wants to be coaching as soon as he can.”
And the man didn’t just inspire his physician, but his players and a whole city. The players are eager to see his return as well.
“It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be a great moment, just having him back on an everyday basis with the team, knowing that’s what he really wants, back with us coaching and back on the sideline,” safety Antoine Bethea said. “Obviously we know it’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be a great time.”
Interim coach Bruce Arians says that there is no doubt the “Chuckstrong” message inspired his team to succeed this season. And has them on the verge of returning to the playoffs one year after having the worst record in the league.
“They found a reason to play and when a team finds a reason to play, they’ll overcome some things,” Arians said. “Chuck’s illness took everybody, even strangers that we would bring off the street on Wednesday and we’d play on Sunday, and they’d fight their tails off. When you have guys playing hard for 60 minutes, you’re going to win some games because most teams in this league don’t play hard for 60 minutes.”
And for those worried about a rocky transition at a crucial time of season as the Colts once again switch coaches, those within the organization expect it to be a smooth transition.
“We would always talk back and forth about what was good, what was not good and how we were going to try and defend our next opponent. So we’re going to go back to that,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said.
“When he comes in, we’re ready to roll, same thing. It’s uncharted territory I guess you would say.”