Ex-Ravens Assistant Pagano Diagnosed With Leukemia
FULL RECOVERY AND RETURN TO COACHING EXPECTED
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- When Chuck Pagano was appointed the Ravens' defensive coordinator in early 2011, he promised that his unit would wreak havoc.
Pagano -- now the Indianapolis Colts' head coach -- has an opponent wreaking havoc with him, but it's one he can beat.
Monday morning, Colts owner Jim Irsay confirmed a published report that stated Pagano had been diagnosed with leukemia.
"It's been a very difficult week,” Irsay said at an Indianapolis press conference. "The coach was feeling some fatigue over the last two weeks, had noticed some bruising on his body that at first he thought could have been from contact on the field, coaching, or playing with his grandkids. ...
"Eventually through talking to his wife, Tina, she said, 'You need to check that out.' "
There are differing reports about when Pagano is expected to return to the sidelines.
One says that the coach will miss six weeks because of surgery, but recover and coach again before the season ends. Another quotes Irsay as saying he doesn't think Pagano will be back this year.
But, as Irsay said, some things are more important.
"Knowing Chuck, his first concern is going to be for his children, his grandchildren, his wife, for others," Irsay said. "That's just how he is. I feel with every fiber of my body, and Chuck feels the same way, that he can beat this thing."
The Colts were one of two teams that had the season's first byes during the weekend. The other was Pittsburgh; ex-Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who now has that job with the Colts, will be the new interim head coach in the absence of Pagano, who turns 52 on Tuesday.
Of the five defensive coordinators in Ravens history that have preceded incumbent Dean Pees, Pagano had the shortest tenure, staying just one season in the job after having been the secondary coach under John Harbaugh.
Under Pagano, the Ravens allowed 16.6 points per game, tied with Greg Mattison for the lowest points-allowed average among Pees' predecessors.
Last year's Ravens, which advanced to the AFC Championship Game, allowed only 92.6 rushing yards per contest, second-fewest only to Rex Ryan's units (84.0), and 288.9 net total yards per game, a total only Ryan lowered (277.8).
Pagano's defensive philosophy featured a more attacking, one-gap scheme, complete with the kind of masked pass rushes so popular under Ryan. But more indicative of the man is the personality with which he approaches the game.
"He was disheartened that NFL Network wasn't on in his hospital room," Irsay said, who added that he told Pagano, "When we grab the Lombardi Trophy some day, it's going to be that much sweeter."
A young, rebuilding Colts roster -- even with much-ballyhooed rookie quarterback Andrew Luck -- lost two of its first three games, ranking 14th in total offense and 20th in overall defense. Ravens free agents such as defensive end Cory Redding and safety Tom Zbikowski followed Pagano to Indianapolis.
Previously, Pagano had coached at several colleges, as well as with the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders. He and his wife have three daughters and two granddaughters.
Posted Oct. 1, 2012