Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano will be out for an indefinite period with a treatable form of leukemia, the team announced today.
Pagano has been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. He was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday and doctors have started chemotherapy. He could remain in the hospital for several weeks.
Colts owner Jim Irsay said it is unlikely Pagano will be able to return this season as full head coach, although he might be able to help at some point from the press box.
"It's a marathon, no question about it," Irsay said of the treatment schedule ahead.
"I feel with every fiber in my body, and Chuck feels the same way, that he can beat this thing," Irsay said.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will take over as interim coach during Pagano's absence. He called Pagano a "fighter" and said he feels confident about his recovery.
"As a cancer survivor myself, I know the first few days are really hard on you," Arians said. "He and I talked yesterday that it's just a matter of time (until he returns). We'll leave the light on in his office permanently until he comes back."
Pagano, who turns 52 on Tuesday, had been feeling fatigued and seeing unusual bruises on his body over the last few weeks and saw a doctor during the bye week for tests.
"It's a very difficult day," Irsay said. "It is unlikely he'll be all-in as a coach this season."
Irsay said the players reacted emotionally to the news this morning, with some tears shed when Pagano's illness was announced.
"Chuck has helped lay the foundation of family, trust, loyalty and respect and in a short time, we feel that foundation is strong enough to shoulder these trying times," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "Chuck is a fighter. As we talked to the players this morning, we said the best medicine for him is to continue to fight for four quarters and show him what he has said is still in existence, and will continue to be."
This is Pagano's first season as a head coach. The Colts play at home against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.