The Packers will be facing a Colts team that found itself having to digest devastating news this week, when it was revealed that Head Coach Chuck Pagano is suffering from leukemia.
Pagano has taken a leave of absence from the team to begin chemotherapy treatment. Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians is the Colts interim head coach, which saddles Arians with the two most important tasks in the organization: replacing Pagano and developing rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the first overall pick of the draft and the future of the Colts franchise.
“I don’t consider myself the head coach. I’ve just expanded my coordinator’s role and leadership role within the organization until Chuck comes back. Basically that’s, 'Am I going to go for it on fourth down or throw this red flag?' I don’t want the staff doing anything differently than what they’ve been doing, so everyone’s in their comfort zone. I’ll take the extra position and move on,” Arians said in a conference call with Packers media on Wednesday.
“Guys are still in shock a little bit. I know I am,” Luck said of the news of Pagano’s illness. “I don’t know I understand the true breadth of the situation. We’ll be behind him the whole way. I firmly believe he’ll make it through. I think guys want to make sure they stay focused on the task at hand. I know that’s what he’d want.”
The task at hand would be preparation for a game this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium against a 2-2 Packers team that appears to be hitting its stride as the second month of the 2012 NFL season begins. The 1-2 Colts have an impressive win over the Vikings, but are coming off a bye week that was preceded by a come-from-ahead loss to the Jaguars.
“We may have to work a little extra at finding that time,” Luck said, referring to the student-teacher time he and Arians have shared since the two were united last spring. “It can’t change much or we’ll be behind the eight-ball.”
The Colts are 17th in total offense, with a No. 12 pass offense led by a quarterback whose 75.4 passer rating is largely the result of four interceptions. Interceptions, of course, are the usual lament for rookie quarterbacks.
Defensively, the Colts are 18th overall and hoping star defensive end Dwight Freeney might make a full recovery from an ankle injury that has curtailed his effectiveness through the first month of the season. His longtime pass-rush partner, Robert Mathis, leads the Colts with four sacks.
“As a pair, I think they’re the best there are. It’s like two Clays (Matthews). Hopefully, we can get Dwight back out there,” Arians said.
What kind of opponent will the Packers find the Colts to be? A team struggling to digest bad news? Or will the Colts be motivated to give their ailing coach a victory that might boost his spirits and assist in his recovery?
“One play at a time, one day at a time. We’re going to get through it. Chuck has laid the foundation it takes to win here. We’re going to continue to build on what he started. Do what we do and we’ll be fine,” Arians said.
“It’s going to take time. What we do is find that safe haven that’s called football, come to the office and get into that routine Chuck put into place. It’s not going to go away and we’ve got to maintain that focus.”Additional coverage - Oct. 3