By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
5:31 PM EST, December 30, 2012
The Ravens' upcoming AFC wild-card playoff game next weekend figures to be charged with emotion.
The fourth-seeded Ravens will host an inspired Indianapolis Colts squad coached by former Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who's successfully battling leukemia and returned to the sideline Sunday for a resounding victory over the Houston Texans.
"He's like a dad to me," free safety Ed Reed said of Pagano, his former position coach with the Ravens and at the University of Miami. "That's family, which is first before football."
The Ravens expect it to be a tough matchup against their fiery former coach.
"We know they're playing for something outside of football, sometimes you live for something outside of football," cornerback Cary Williams said. "For those guys to be behind him, here's a guy who's going to fight every week. He's dealing with some things and their team wasn't even predicted to be in the playoffs. For those guys to overcome the odds the way their head coach has done it's awesome, but we got to handle our business. Business as usual."
Pagano remains a popular figure in the Ravens' locker room.
"Chuck is a great coach, I'm sure the fans are going to welcome him," strong safety Bernard Pollard said. "We're going to love him, we're going to embrace him At the same time, we've got to play him and we've got to beat him. We got to show what we're made of and go play."
The Ravens said they'll need to match the Colts' intensity.
"Chuck Strong," nose guard Terrence Cody said in a reference to the popular T-shirts honoring Pagano. "We know we got to get on our level and get on our focus and have a great practice and be ready to play and be ready to start fast."
Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in September and has completed three bouts of chemotherapy to get back on the field.
"He's a great friend, and I have tremendous respect for him personally," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Pagano. "I love his family, and he's one of the my closest personal friends in coaching. What he's been through is phenomenal, but we're all competitors, so that gets set aside. They're going to come in here with every intention of winning the football game, so we're going to have to play our best football in order to beat them."
The Colts are capably quarterbacked by rookie Andrew Luck, the top overall pick in the draft.
"He's a good quarterback," Cody said. "He makes good decisions. He doesn't really turn the ball over. He knows how to control the game. That's what makes him a good quarterback and hopefully when they come into our house we can change that success."
Added Williams: "I've seen him a couple of times on television, and he looks poised. He looks like a great leader. He's a young guy who's able to make big throws down the field. He's strong in the pocket. He's not afraid to run at times if needed to. They're rallying around him. They believe in him."