INDIANAPOLIS — Bruce Arians stood at the podium Friday, answering questions and doing the same thing he’s done since Oct. 1.
It may have been his last weekday appearance as Indianapolis’ interim coach.
With doctors giving head coach Chuck Pagano clearance to return to his job, Arians sounded cautiously optimistic that Pagano would be running the team Monday for the first time since he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“It’s still up in the air, but he feels pretty solid that he’s ready to go," Arians said, reiterating the point he’s made all week — he’s eager to give the reins back to his longtime friend.
Pagano hasn’t coached a game since a Sept. 23 loss to Jacksonville. Three days later, he was admitted to an Indianapolis hospital to begin the first of three rounds of chemotherapy.
But Arians wasn’t told about the diagnosis until Sept. 30, and players and the other assistants didn’t find out until a team meeting Oct. 1, the day the Colts returned from their bye.
Indy has gone 8-3 since Pagano left and has moved within one win — or one Steelers loss — of clinching an improbable playoff spot in what has been a historic turnaround from last season’s 2-14 debacle. Arians needs one more win to tie the NFL record for most wins following a midseason coaching change (nine), and if the Colts win today at Kansas City, they would join the short list of NFL teams to win two or fewer games one season and 10 or more the next.
If Pagano is back Monday, it won’t be the first time the Colts (9-5) have seen or heard from their recovering head coach. He has communicated with players and coaches through phone calls and text message, watched tape of practices and games on his computer and has given pregame and postgame speeches following home games.
But Indy is about to embark on an almost unprecedented coaching transition — just as the playoffs are about to begin — though the players and coaches are eager to make it work.
“It will be real special. He’s our leader, he’s our general," Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne said. “To get him back for the playoffs would be picture perfect. He’s been through some tough times, he’s fought through it and he’s taught us how to fight."