Indianapolis Colts' Chuck Pagano Medically Cleared to Return to Work
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Breaking news from Indianapolis should lift the hearts of football fans everywhere.
The news was broken through a series of tweets by Indianapolis Star beat reporter Mike Chappell, who spoke with Pagano's physician, Dr. Larry Cripe.
Chappell had previously written that he expects Pagano to return to coaching duties Monday, December 24. This was in keeping with previous statements by the team on the subject. For months, team and fans alike have been hopeful that the cancer-stricken coach would return to the sidelines in time to coach the 16th game of the 2012 season.
News that he has, in fact, received a green light from his doctor means that the legion of prayers for healing have been replaced with thanksgiving and joy.
Since being diagnosed with leukemia in September, Pagano has become an inspiration to many and the galvanizing emotional force behind his team's unlikely charge to the postseason.
While his return to coaching is a moment to be gladly celebrated, there are still many unresolved questions surrounding his return.
The team has flourished under the steady hand of interim coach Bruce Arians, and some may wonder how smoothly the transfer of responsibilities will occur.
Arians has done everything in his power to reiterate both inside and outside of the locker room that the Colts have only one head coach, and that is Pagano. His steadfast position has been that he was there just keeping the seat warm for his friend.
The players will undoubtedly greet his return with enthusiasm. Robert Mathis told Chappell,
It would mean the world to us. Just for him to fight this, well he’s not fighting it alone, we are here, heart and mind and souls are with him. He’s coming back to whip this thing and get back to work.
Of course, there are many natural concerns about Pagano's stamina as well. It's unclear whether he would be on the sidelines or the coaches' booth during what will likely be a cold-weather playoff game.
George Karl, coach of the Denver Nuggets and a cancer survivor, spoke with Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star and expressed concern that Pagano not return too quickly, but instead be sure of his own health first and foremost. He said,
All I know is, one month after my last radiation treatment, I wasn't really healthy. There's no way I could have coached. My instincts, my reactions and my mind was cloudy. Having to make quick decisions, figure out things before they happen -- things coaches have to do -- I think that would have been very difficult.
Pagano will undoubtedly need all the good will he's built up through his ordeal. NFL coaches are fantastically popular when the team is winning, but fans are fickle. The Colts may actually improve on the field, but take a step back record-wise in 2013. It remains to be seen if a fanbase expecting big things will reign back their expectations in the face of a more difficult schedule.
While these concerns are valid and very real, they simply do not matter now.
Now all that matters is that Chuck is strong once again.
Just like he always was.
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