One staff mem­ber is hop­ing for a ‘great Christ­mas present.’

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - Chuck Pagano’s leukemia is in com­plete re­mis­sion.

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.”

Cripe said he gave Pagano the good news the last time they met, though he de­clined to say when that hap­pened.

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.

Of­fi­cially, the Colts (9-5) have not said when Pagano will re­turn. 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.

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 on an ev­ery­day ba­sis with the team, know­ing that’s what he really wants, back with us coach­ing and back on the side­line,” safety An­toine Bethea said. “It’s go­ing to be a great time.”

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