Pagano looks forward to healthy, bright future with Colts
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano was answering a question at the NFL Scouting Combine about cornerback Vontae Davis when he accidentally said Vontae Leach, a fullback with the Ravens.
"Blame it on the chemo," quipped Pagano to the assembled media at his press conference.
In all seriousness, the chemotherapy is over and Pagano's leukemia is in complete remission after missing 12 games last season for treatment for the disease.
"I feel good and feel like most of that is behind me," said Pagano. "Hair is coming back in. It's a little gnarly. I haven't found a gel yet that will quite calm it down. My wife's trying to help me out."
Pagano's illness inspired the Colts to a dramatic turnaround in 2012. A team predicted by many to be the worst in the NFL won 11 games and qualified for the playoffs despite a major turnover of the roster. The unexpected success in 2012 raises the expectations for next season.
"We know what the expectations are now," said Pagano. "The bar is really high. We are just going to continue to work the process and build the monster. We fully expect to back up last year with another great season."
The major change in Pagano's coaching staff is losing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who left to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Arians also led the team to a 9-3 record while Pagano was gone from the team.
"We certainly didn't want to lose Bruce," said Pagano. "You can't put a price tag on what he meant to this organization, to this city, to this team. When you have success, good things are going to happen. It's just a byproduct of success."
Pep Hamilton replaces Arians as Colts offensive coordinator. Hamilton is reunited with quarterback Andrew Luck, who Hamilton coached at Stanford.
"Very excited to have Pep in the fold," said Pagano. "(He's) a really bright, young rising star. Obviously, has some familiarity with a few guys on our team. He's taking a hard look at our personnel and finding areas that we need to address. It's probably a little premature to say what we're going to look like next fall."
Pagano said resigning punter Pat McAfee, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent, is a major priority. Pagano says the Colts have already reached out to McAfee to work on a new contract. McAfee also handled kickoffs for the Colts. McAfee has expressed a desire to be a placekicker as well.
"He's a great weapon," said Pagano. "Not only kickoffs and touchbacks and kicking out of the endzone, but pinning guys inside the 20 and 10 over and over again. It helps your field position, offense and defense."