Colts coach Pagano eager to get started
INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano beat the traffic and a blizzard into work Wednesday morning — all in an effort to beat the Texans.
After spending the last three months fighting leukemia, the Colts' coach arrived early at the team complex. He met briefly with his players to give them a succinct message about this week's game plan then stepped onto the practice field for the first time since Sept. 26.
It seemed nothing had changed.
“From Day 1, we set goals for ourselves, and after watching what this team has done over the course of the season, the last 12 weeks, it's just not in our DNA,” Pagano said when asked about resting his starters Sunday against Houston. “Our families deserve it, our fans deserve to see our best game regardless of the circumstances. They're going to roll the ball out there, and our job is to win a ballgame, and that's what we're going to do.”
While Pagano wanted to take a business-as-usual approach into his first regular workday, it certainly wasn't easy amid all the outside stuff.
Up to a foot of wind-whipped snow had fallen in parts of Indianapolis, creating hazardous driving conditions. Pagano said he arrived at the team complex so early, he had no trouble driving. And though he considered moving up the scheduled afternoon practice so players could return home, Pagano decided against it because forecasters were hopeful the road conditions would improve as the snow tapered off late in the afternoon.
The snowiest day of the year was no deterrent for Pagano, who returned to the team complex Monday, met briefly with players who gave him a standing ovation, and spent about 30 minutes answering questions from reporters. On Wednesday, he strolled onto the team's indoor practice field for the first time in three months, presided over the full-scale practice in the afternoon and savored every precious moment.
“Any time you just get removed from where you're supposed to be on a daily basis — I've been doing this for the last 28 years of my life and then all of a sudden to be taken away from it, and then to be blessed to get back before the end of the season — it's a great feeling,” he said. “It's just good to be back around the players and practice and coaching again.”
Playing to win what would normally be a meaningless game is a stark contrast from previous Colts playoff years. Starters routinely were held out of late-season games that had no bearing on playoff position.
In 2009 the Colts were 14-0 yet yanked their starters in the third quarter of a home game against the Jets. Indy lost the game, played some starters one series the next week in snowy Buffalo, and lost a few weeks later to New Orleans in the Super Bowl.
The Colts are locked into the AFC's No. 5 seed and will open the playoffs on the road against the AFC's No. 4 seed, Baltimore or New England.