Cripe said Pagano's wife, Tina, had been at his bedside each night. Irsay said she was the one who pushed him to see the doctor after noticing unusual bruising on his body.
With most players and coaches out of town over the weekend, Pagano, a father of three girls, notified Arians in a heart-breaking call Sunday.
"When Chuck called me yesterday, I was floored. I was down south at my home in Georgia and he was chatting like he always chats, and then he drops the news on me," Arians said, remembering how he struggled to drive home after the doctor told him he had cancer five years ago. "My first reaction was how is everything, how's Tina, how's the girls, is everything going to be all right?"
It was yet another blow for a team that has faced more than its share of adversity over the past decade.
Seven years ago, then coach Tony Dungy's 18-year-old son, James, was found dead in an apartment in Tampa, Fla. The death was later ruled a suicide. Dungy missed Indy's next game, then returned for the final week of the regular season. In 2006, the Colts were jolted again by the death of Reggie Wayne's brother, Rashad, in a traffic accident.
The few veterans still hanging around from back then hope to pass on the lessons they learned back then to one of the youngest teams in the NFL.
"Because it blindsided us all, we haven't really had a chance to talk about that," outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. "But we will relay that message because we've been through it."
Irsay isn't sure when Pagano will be back and said only that he hopes Pagano will be able to coach from the press box later this season.
Arians made it clear to the players that if Pagano can't make it back before the Dec. 30 regular season finale, there is another option they can control.
"Why can't we extend the season so he can come back?" Arians said.
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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