Colts’ Arians ready to step in for ill Pagano

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Indy’s defense is embracing the choice, too.

During the first practice without Pagano, players were surprised to see just how quickly _ and smoothly _ Arians could adapt to his new duties. And though it sounded strange coming from the mouth of a longtime offensive guy, Arians wasted no time in praising the defense for forcing a couple of late turnovers.

“It was odd, awkward,” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said, drawing laughter. “We like to have fun during practice and he likes to talk trash to us, so to see him cheering for us, it was a little different.”

How long Arians will be pulling double duty isn’t clear.

Pagano was admitted to an Indianapolis hospital last Wednesday to begin treatment. Dr. Larry Cripe, Pagano’s physician, said the coach will be treated with chemotherapy and drugs _ a process that usually requires patients to spend four to five weeks in the hospital. Irsay said he expected Pagano to stay a bit longer, six to eight weeks, and does not anticipate Pagano taking over his full head-coaching duties the rest of this season.

If Pagano doesn’t make it back to the sideline before the Dec. 30 regular-season finale, Arians has given the Colts (1-2) another goal.

“Why can’t we extend the season so he can come back?” Arians said.

Indy’s playoff quest restarts Sunday when the Packers (2-2) visit Lucas Oil Stadium _ a day that Arians will lead the Colts onto the field for the first time. And although it’s something Arians has always dreamed of doing, it will be a day and a season filled with concern for his longtime friend.

“His family is my family,” Arians said. “When he made the call to me to come, there was never a doubt or a hesitance on my part because I knew he would do this right, and he’s doing it the right way. We’re just going to continue that until he gets back.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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