There’s a game Sunday in Indianapolis, but you’ll forgive the hosts if their focus is somewhere other than on the Green Bay Packers.
The Colts disclosed head coach Chuck Pagano’s diagnosis of leukemia on Monday and the first-year head man is expected to be hospitalized six to eight weeks while undergoing treatment. Pagano, who turned 52 Tuesday, will be treated with chemotherapy and drugs, according to his physician Dr. Larry Cripe.
“I think short of death, this is the worst type of news you want to hear,” rookie quarterback Andrew Luck said. “We’ll do everything we can in honor of what coach Pagano is going through in honor of his fight, which is much more important than this kid’s game we play.”
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, will lead Indianapolis on an interim basis until Pagano returns, which probably won’t be this season.
In his absence, the week’s rallying cry for the Colts is making an unlikely run to the playoffs, which would give Pagano a better shot at returning to the sidelines this season.
Though, in reality, simply winning this week would be plenty.
“I know in meeting with the team, in meeting with the coaches, there’s nothing more than we want to get that Green Bay game ball and have a victory game ball and be able to walk that into the hospital and put that in his hands,” team owner Jim Irsay said. “That’s our goal.”
However, with Green Bay coming in on what would be a three-game win streak if not for a celebrated referee error, the task is a tough one.
The Packers scored on their second possession in a defeat of New Orleans last week — the first time they’d scored in the first quarter this season — and finished with their highest scoring output of 2012. Green Bay scored 28 points against the Saints after averaging 19 points in their first three games.
By contrast, the Packers averaged 35 points per game in 2011, the fifth- highest total in NFL history.