INDIANAPOLIS — Colts head coach Chuck Pagano can resume coaching whenever he’s ready.
On Thursday, Dr. Larry Cripe, told The Associated Press that Pagano had been cleared to return and that it was up to the coach and the Colts to determine when that will happen, and how much Pagano will do. Pagano’s physician is not imposing any restrictions, either.
Pagano is expected to return to the team complex as early as Monday.
“Medically, I see no reason he cannot come back when he’s ready to try and come back,” Cripe said. “Coach has done a great job with this, and I trust him.”
Pagano has not been on the sideline since a Sept. 23 loss to Jacksonville, Indy’s only home defeat this season.
Three days later, he was diagnosed with leukemia and immediately began the first of three rounds of chemotherapy. Players and most of the assistant coaches were told Oct. 1, the day the Colts returned from their bye, that Pagano was taking an indefinite leave from the team and that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would fill in as interim coach. The team has left the light on in Pagano’s office since then.
On Nov. 5, Cripe said the disease was in “complete remission” and that Pagano would undergo two more rounds of chemotherapy to ensure all the cancer cells had been destroyed. Pagano is scheduled to take oral medication and be closely monitored by doctors for the next two years.
During treatment, Pagano stayed in communication with players and coaches through phone calls and text messages; watched tape of practices and games; occasionally showed up at the team complex; and has spoken to the team before and after home games.
All the while, doctors continuously monitored Pagano’s white blood-cell count to make sure the recovery was progressing.
But the Colts always pegged the Dec. 30 regular-season finale against Houston as the date they hoped to have Pagano back on the sideline — a goal that now appears likely to be met.
“I love that guy and I would love to see him in person on the sideline,” Cripe said when asked if he would attend the Dec. 30 game. “To me, the bottom line is that he’s done what he needed to do, and he’s done it with the clear goal that he wants to be coaching as soon as he can.”
Officially, the Colts (9-5) have not said when Pagano will return.
On Wednesday, Arians told reporters the team was keeping its fingers crossed and that it would be a “great Christmas present” if Pagano returned on Christmas Eve. When asked if he was ready to coach his final game, Arians responded: “Heck, yes.”
Players are eager to get him back, too.