The Colts turn their focus to the Packers, while never taking their minds off Chuck Pagano’s cancer battle

Colts interim coach Bruce Arians is keeping them focused (Associated Press)

We already know that the Colts won’t beat anybody using old-fashioned weapons like snot bubbles and tears. We can thank Bruce Arians, Indianapolis’ interim coach, for that image. But they do have a battle on their hands on Sunday, and not just because the Packers are coming to town. In addition, they have to play without their head coach.

As you probably read, Chuck Pagano was unfortunately diagnosed with leukemia, which has made Arians the man in charge while Pagano wages his fight. And that’s put the onus on the team to put their emotions aside, as hard as that may be. Pagano has one reason why they should.

Arians made the point that Pagano wouldn’t want them to “play for him,” because that would put too much pressure on the whole thing. There is definitely a lot of discussion about trying to make it business as usual. And the way the players have handled it has been incredibly mature. I was really impressed talking to them.

As time progresses, the initial shockwaves of this thing will be over and you can’t get too caught up in emotion,” Arians said. “The football field’s kind of a safe haven. And when we get out there, it’s business as usual and we stay there. We stay focused on the moment, on one play at a time, and not getting too caught up in it. It’s going to really happen Saturday. More and more as the week progresses, more and more emphasis is going to be, ‘Try and win this game for Chuck.’ And Chuck doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want to put that extra pressure on these guys. Just win the game because we want to win the game. That’ll be the icing on the cake.”

Make no mistake, Pagano’s fingerprints and image are all over, even as his hospital stay increases. He put together the plan for the week, considering there was a bye. As QB Andrew Luck mentioned, they end practice by breaking it down on his name. And — in a really cool gesture — Arians is leaving the light on in Pagano’s office as a symbol that he’s coming back.

In addition, they’ve heard from people all over the NFL, and they’ve seen coaches and players pay homage. Arians said, “People don’t realize the brotherhood of this business. I’m extremely touched by the community and all the support they’ve shown. We’re going to do our best to represent and do what it takes to make it.”

It won’t be easy, especially this weekend. The Packers will be at Lucas Oil, and that’ll get their focus real quick. Things have changed a bit for Arians. At practice, for instance, the QBs were throwing, but he was watching the special teams. As a head coach, his duties have changed.

As for the players on Sunday, all they want is to make sure they show the effort.

All of the guys, our thoughts are with him,” Luck said. “A lot of guys will be playing for him for a lot of games to come, but we also realize he’d be disappointed in us if we weren’t giving full effort in practice or getting too low about what’s going on or too emotional. We’re trying to work and put the work in. That’s what he’d want.”

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