The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 2, 2012

Colts coach Pagano diagnosed with leukemia

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

The few veterans still hanging around from back then hope to pass on the lessons they learned back then to one of the youngest teams in the NFL.

"Because it blindsided us all, we haven't really had a chance to talk about that," outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. "But we will relay that message because we've been through it."

Irsay isn't sure when Pagano will be back and said only that he hopes Pagano will be able to coach from the press box later this season.

Arians made it clear to the players that if Pagano can't make it back before the Dec. 30 regular season finale, there is another option they can control.

"Why can't we extend the season so he can come back?" Arians said.

Last year, after losing ironman Peyton Manning for the entire season because of multiple neck surgeries, one of the preseason's Super Bowl favorite was terrible and wound up with the No. 1 draft pick and the impetus to rebuild. Manning, the longtime face of the franchise, and a handful of other fan favorites were released in March as the Colts embarked on a major rebuilding project — a project Pagano had been expected to oversee in the next big chapter of his family's coaching legacy.

In addition to his brother's stint with the Chargers, Pagano's father, Sam, won three Colorado state championships as a high school coach but never took a college or pro job.

While the Colts attempted to take a business-as-usual approach at Monday's practice, nothing was the same. Even defensive players seemed surprised that Arians was cheering when they came up with turnovers.

Grigson and Arians were still trying to figure out how the coaching duties will be handled during Pagano's absence, and the focus was increasingly on things of far greater significance than just football.

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