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.
“It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be a great moment, just having him back,” safety Antoine Bethea said.
Turner wouldn’t mind being an offensive coordinator
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Norv Turner isn’t ruling out taking a job as an offensive coordinator for another NFL team if he is fired as coach of the San Diego Chargers after this season.
With the Chargers struggling at 5-9 and missing the playoffs for the third straight season, speculation has increased that the team will part ways with Turner, as well as general manager A.J. Smith. Turner said Wednesday during a conference call with New York-area reporters that he can’t picture taking a year off from coaching.
Around the league
GIANTS: The return of New York wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to practice after missing the previous day with a sprained left knee could only bode well for his on-field rapport with quarterback Eli Manning. Nicks has 53 catches for 629 yards and three touchdowns, solid but not spectacular considering his first three years of work with the team. He expects not only to be healthy enough to face the Ravens on Sunday but plans on being integral to the offense.
DOLPHINS: Miami could be without both starting receivers Sunday against Buffalo. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, who have combined for nearly half of the Dolphins’ receptions, missed practice with back injuries. Bess sat out Sunday’s win over Jacksonville, and Hartline was hurt in that game.
SEAHAWKS: Seattle’s defensive line took a hit as the team placed defensive tackle Jason Jones on injured reserve with a lingering knee injury. The Seahawks promoted defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo from the practice squad to takes Jones‘ roster spot. Jones recorded three sacks playing mostly in passing situations and had a fumble recovery.
BILLS: Cornerback and return specialist Leodis McKelvin has been placed on injured reserve because of a groin injury. Buffalo signed linebacker Kirk Morrison back to the team after releasing him Dec. 3 after he was inactive for 12 games. The 30-year-old made seven tackles for the Bills in 2011 after spending six years with Oakland and Jacksonville.
CHIEFS: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles said that he’s focused on finishing the season strong after coming back from a devastating knee injury and then dealing with teammate Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide that hit especially close to home. Charles tore his left ACL early last season, causing him to miss the entire year. But he’s returned to be one of the few bright spots for the Chiefs (2-12), running for 1,230 yards and four touchdowns.
JETS: New York placed rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill on injured reserve, ending his season because of a knee injury. Hill, the Jets’ second-round pick in April out of Georgia Tech, sprained the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee at Jacksonville on Dec. 9. New York will consider all its options regarding quarterback Mark Sanchez in the offseason, meaning a trade for the former No. 5 overall draft pick cannot be ruled out.
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