INDIANAPOLIS – A Colts' season jampacked with storylines heads to Baltimore, the former home of Colts coach Chuck Pagano, the even older former home of the Colts and current home to former Colts coach Jim Caldwell.
That's a lot of intertwining and subtext.
“It is the playoffs, the energy is amped up, the excitement level, the focus, all those things are amped up now because you got yourself in the dance, but it's one and done,” Pagano said. “You win you go on, you lose you go home. Obviously all those things are heightened.”
Many of the Baltimore Ravens' players, particularly on defense, are friends with Pagano since he spent four seasons as a coach, including defensive coordinator, before taking the Colts' job. Two former Ravens – defensive end Cory Redding and safety Tom Zbikowski – are on the Colts.
Ravens safety and Fort Wayne native Bernard Pollard told Baltimore reporters how much Pagano means to some of the Ravens.
"Chuck is a great coach, I'm sure the fans are going to welcome him,” 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."
Pagano emphasized all fond feelings and memories take a backseat to the game at hand,.
“We've made a lot of great relationships there over a four-year period and we had a great experience there, me and my family with that organization,” Pagano said. “It's a top-notch organization like I said. But again our focus has got to be on us and preparing for the game.”
The Colts play the Ravens in an AFC wild-card playoff game at 1 p.m. Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.
It's not a stretch to say that Pagano, Redding and Zbikowski will have some edge in preparing for Baltimore's offense, given their history. The offense is slightly different since Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator when Cam Cameron was fired, but the personnel will be fairly familiar.
The Ravens rely heavily on quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice, two longtime mainstays.
“Obviously I'll be able to share quite a bit with our football team,” Pagano said. “A lot of intangible things, things that they won't be able to get from the video, just having the time that I spent there, I'll be able to share some of those things and be able to give them some stuff, again, that they wouldn't normally be able to get.”
Pagano said that the Colts can also benefit from offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' knowledge of the Ravens since Arians faced them twice a year when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After the emotions of returning as Colts coach last week following his battle with leukemia, Pagano can concentrate solely on the game plan this time around. There will be some emotional reunion moments with his Baltimore connections, certainly, but that's peripheral to the game.
“My doc said, 'be prudent' if you remember,” Pagano said, “but I may not be prudent this week in spending a lot of time in a lot of different areas in trying to get as much information out as I possibly can and help where I can.”