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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Colts coach Chuck Pagano talks with Dwayne Allen before last month’s home game against Minnesota. Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.

No extra efforts needed

Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is as right as ham-on-rye. Nobody here needs snot bubbles and tears on top of everything else.

“We don’t need to do anything extra,” he said last week, when “extra” became an especially freighted word around the Colts’ complex on 56th Street in Indianapolis. “We just need to play, coach, every day, and prepare like we have …

“Snot bubbles and tears, they don’t beat anybody.”

And if this is a football man’s response to life intruding on games and the business of games, it is also a clear measure of what Chuck Pagano was beginning to build around these young Colts before the news came down that leukemia had other plans for him. And so now he’s gone off to fight that greater fight – he is not expected to resume his full head-coaching duties this season – and the hole he leaves, ironically, is a window into all of that.

The game is not life, is what you take from this. Nor is it particularly a refuge from it, no matter what anyone says. It is, at this level, a job, and the job goes on.

“The thing is, if we take care of our business, it’ll allow him to focus on himself and be healthy,” linebacker Pat Angerer says. “Obviously, we want him back, but most importantly, we want him healthy. We can ease his tensions a little by playing hard and winning.”

And so, next up: Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers, a chance to get square on the season at 2-2.

“We all want to win the game for a lot of reasons, but we can’t put extra expectations on it because of what has happened,” Arians said this week. “The football field is kind of our safe haven, and when we get out there, it’s business as usual. We stay there, we stay focused at that moment one play at a time, one day at a time. We can’t get caught up.”

That’s not to say this hasn’t been the mother of all distractions, of course. Arians himself is a prostate cancer survivor, and he teared up with the best of them this week when the Colts broke the news about Pagano. And every day this week, the cards and letters and phone calls poured in from everywhere.

“People don’t realize the brotherhood to this business, especially those guys like Chuck and myself who have been in it awhile and have moved 13 times,” Arians said. “You meet a lot of guys and when you’re on a staff, truly guys become your brothers. It shows the class of those individuals and the class of our profession.

“I’m extremely touched by the community and all the support that they’ve shown. We’re going to do our best to represent and do what it takes to make everything work.”

And that, of course, means doing the work. As Pagano has emphasized from the jump.

“You understand you just go out there and play,” is how Andrew Luck puts it. “It is nice to go out on the football field where you worry about football and that’s it. I wish it could help heal coach Pagano in a more tangible way. Obviously, hopefully, we can uplift him in some way.”

Aside from that, there is no sentiment here, particularly. There is only Rodgers, and the Packers, and that chance to get square.

“I think we’re all trained rats,” Arians said last week. “We know what day it is by what we’re doing. You grind it out until the last play of the season. That’s where we’re at.

“I think more and more as the week progresses, more and more emphasis is going to be try to win this game for Chuck. Chuck doesn’t want that. Just win the game because we want to win the game.”

As the man himself would say.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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