Ravens hit hard by Pagano's leukemia diagnosis

The Baltimore Sun

Known for his strong personality and aggressive approach to football, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is expected to giveleukemia all it can handle as he begins his fight with the disease.

The former Ravens defensive coordinator has been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia and will undergo four to six months of treatment that included chemotherapy, the Colts announced during a Monday press conference.

The news hit hard in the Ravens' locker room where Pagano remains a popular figure who has maintained close relationships with players, including cornerback LardariusWebb and free safety Ed Reed. Webb exchanged text messages with Pagano on Monday.

"That's a tough one," Webb said. "I told him to get well soon. He said he's going to fight it, he's going to work through it. It hit our heart when we heard the news, and we just can't believe it's Chuck, one of ours. We know he'sa Colt, but he's still one of us. We send all of our heart and condolences to him.

"He's just one of the guys. He interacts with us just like he's one of us, like he's one of our teammates, not our coach. He's just a likeable guy, always has a smile on his face. He's always joking around, having a good time, enjoying work. While he was always serious about his job, he was having fun, and we loved that."

Pagano was hired by the Colts after one season as the Ravens' defensive boss, coaching the third-ranked defense in the NFL last year. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will serve as interim coach , at Pagano's request.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to Chuck, Chuck's a fighter in every respect," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who texted Pagano. "Chuck's got that swagger, and I'm completely confident that Chuck will go to work on this with the same enthusiasm he does everything else in his life, and he'll be victorious.

"He sent us a great message about our guys. I can't really repeat it here, but it was real positive, and it was very forthright is how he expects our guys to play. Our guys loved it. Chuck's a great friend. He's a great guy. He was a great Raven. We all love him. Chuck's going to be fine."

Colts owner Jim Irsay and Dr. Larry D. Cripe both were upbeat during a news conference about Pagano's prospects for remission.

"I am optimistic," Irsay said. "I feel with every fiber in my body, and I know Chuck feels the same way, that he can beat this thing."

Ravens center Matt Birk was caught off guard upon hearing of Pagano's health issues.

"Chuck, he has that smile and kind of walks around a little bit like a gunslinger," Birk said. "He just has a great attitude. He kind of brings a smile to your face. He has a great spirit and certainly my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."


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