After missing much of his first season as Indianapolis head coach, Chuck Pagano will be in his second week back on the sidelines after missing much of the season fighting leukemia. The cancer went into remission in November.
The Colts ended the regular season with an uplifting win over the Texans and now they begin the playoffs perhaps still riding that emotional wave.
Facing Baltimore adds a different dimension to Pagano’s storyline this week, as he had been a part of the Ravens’ family for four years before being named Colts coach last January.
Pagano served three seasons as the Ravens’ secondary coach and one as their defensive coordinator. On Sunday, he’ll be back at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since he left the team.
“It’s going to be special, love all those guys. Great relationships with so many people in that organization,” Pagano said. “They were so good to me and my family. I wouldn’t be sitting where I’m at today if John Harbaugh hadn’t given me the opportunity to join him when he first was hired as a head football coach there. To him and his family and the rest of those people, they know exactly how I and my family feel about them.”
Harbaugh and Lewis were among those in touch with Pagano during his battle with cancer.
Harbaugh said he was in contact with Pagano via text and closely followed his former staff member’s progress.
Lewis, who has been out since Oct. 14 working his way back from torn triceps, said he had a special connection with Pagano during this time.
“I talked to him every other day. We talk every other day. We are texting every other day,” Lewis said. “It was funny, because me and him said the same thing. Of course, never let me put my injury on his level, because his is way more serious than mine, but that’s what we talked about. It’s amazing that because of the things that we shared as men, it was amazing that we were going through adversity at the same time.
“That’s why every day I would pick up and I would send a scripture to him, and I would send thoughts to him, and we would just start hitting back and forth. We would keep each other laughing. It was just a bond that was created over the last few months that probably only me and him knew we had - that strong of a bond. So, for Chuck to come back here, like I said, the game will fade one day, but that brotherhood - that manhood that we created - will never die. I’m looking forward to seeing him and looking forward to getting back and get this game started.”
Harbaugh and several players shared their good feelings for Pagano, that the cancer went into remission and that he’s back doing the job he loves.
Harbaugh was thrilled to see Pagano get his first head coaching job, and now they’ll get to face each other for the first time.
“It was a great opportunity, and we’re proud of him. Well-deserved,” Harbaugh said. “(Chuck has had) a long career of doing a great job everywhere he’s ever been. (He is a) loyal, hard-working guy, a good friend, a good person. You just love to see guys like that get opportunities.”