Colts coach to miss Packers game due to leukemia

CREATED Oct 1, 2012 - UPDATED: Oct 1, 2012

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INDIANAPOLIS - The coach of the Indianapolis Colts has to sit out of Sunday's Packers game, and perhaps many more games after he was diagnosed with leukemia.

The Indianapolis Star reports that Chuck Pagano has "been feeling unusual fatigue" and had taken a number of recent blood tests.

"I know we will pull together," said Colts owner Jim Irsay in a Monday news conference.  "I am very optimistic that he will beat this thing."

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was to take over head coaching duties Sunday.

"I think it's unlikely he'll be all in as the head coach the rest of this season," Irsay said. "He may be able to come back and be in the press box or something."

The 51-year-old Pagano is in his first season with the Colts (1-2). He was hired in January after serving as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator.

Dr. Larry Cripe, the physician treating the coach at Indiana University's Simon Cancer Center, said Pagano has acute myeloid leukemia, where the bone marrow is producing abnormal white blood cells that interfere with healthy blood cells. Symptoms can include weakness, weight loss and easy bruising or bleeding. Treatments can include chemotherapy, drugs and radiation therapy.

Irsay said Pagano's wife pushed him to see the doctor after noticing unusual bruising on the coach's body.

The initial phase of treatment usually requires a hospital stay of four to five weeks, though Irsay later acknowledged he expected Pagano to be in the hospital at least six weeks.

Cripe said Pagano began the "arduous" treatment last week and that many adults do recover from the disease. For now, Pagano is being kept in a "protected" hospital environment where air is filtered and hand-washing is essential.

Pagano was admitted last Wednesday evening; the team had a bye this weekend and players and the assistants, other than Arians, were not told Pagano was ill until Monday morning.

"This is not an easy day for any of us," Arians said. "It was not the way I ever dreamed about addressing a group like this. But I know he'll get through it."

General manager Ryan Grigson said he was not yet certain how the rest of the coaching duties would be split up, though he expected all of the assistants to pitch in.