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Last year, after losing ironman Peyton Manning for the entire season because of multiple neck surgeries, one of the preseason’s Super Bowl favorite was terrible and wound up with the No. 1 draft pick and the impetus to rebuild. Manning, the longtime face of the franchise, and a handful of other fan favorites were released in March as the Colts embarked on a major rebuilding project _ a project Pagano had been expected to oversee in the next big chapter of his family’s coaching legacy.

In addition to his brother’s stint with the Chargers, Pagano’s father, Sam, won three Colorado state championships as a high school coach but never took a college or pro job.

While the Colts attempted to take a business-as-usual approach at Monday’s practice, nothing was the same. Even defensive players seemed surprised that Arians was cheering when they came up with turnovers.

Grigson and Arians were still trying to figure out how the coaching duties will be handled during Pagano’s absence, and the focus was increasingly on things of far greater significance than just football.

“I think short of death, this is the worst type of news you want to hear,” Luck said. “We’ll do everything we can in honor of what Coach Pagano is going through in honor of his fight, which is much more important than this kid’s game we play.”

Universally, the Colts insist Pagano will win this battle.

They just hope they can give him a special gift next week.

“I know in meeting with the team, in meeting with the coaches, there’s nothing more than we want to get that Green Bay game ball and have a victory game ball and be able to walk that into the hospital and put that in his hands,” Irsay said. “That’s our goal.”


AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich in Washington and Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this report.


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