Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
After battling leukemia in 2012 and watching his team make a surprising run to the playoffs, Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano arrived today at the scouting combine and spoke about his team's future.
"Like Ryan Grigson said, the hair’s coming back in. It’s a little gnarly. I haven’t found a gel yet that will quite calm it down. We’re still looking for one. My wife’s trying to help me out. I feel great and very fortunate to be back here and doing this combine deal."
On how team will be this year without the rallying point of his illness last year and with last year’s success.
"We set our expectations high a year ago when we got here. We knew where everybody basically had us based on all the turnover in the front office, coaching staff, players, etc. We know what the expectations are now. Players have set high expectations for themselves. The bar is really high. We’re just going to keep working the process, continuing to build the monster and move forward. We fully expect to back up last year with another great season."
On what looking for at combine.
"We’re going to look at everything. There are a ton of players here to look at. We’ve analyzed ourselves pretty good, delved in as far as self-scout. There are some areas there we all know that need to be addressed. We’re not going to just earmark one or two areas. We’re going to take a look at everybody here and hopefully plug in a few pieces to help us."
On if he is back fully physically.
"I don’t know if that will ever be the same. I feel pretty normal now, as far as going through the normal stuff a football coach goes through on a day-in, day-out basis. Whether it will ever be exactly the same, I don’t think it will ever be that way. I feel good. I feel like most of that is behind me. I feel good where I’m at right now."
On if there are any restrictions.
"Very little media obligations, they (doctors) said (laughs). There won’t be anymore Wednesday pressers and Monday. Dr. (Larry) Cripe, you’ll have to talk to him. There are really no restrictions. Anybody else who has dealt with some form of cancer, leukemia or blood disease, you still have a process to go through. I have a couple years still of medication I’ll take for a couple of weeks every three months. You go in every six months for three years after that. If you’re still in remission after five years, they’ll give you a certificate and a badge and send you off and say you’re healthy and completely free of any more doctor visits."
On Pep Hamilton hiring.
"(I’m) very excited to have Pep in the fold, a bright, young, rising star. Obviously, he’s had some familiarity with a few guys on our team. Pep is going to dive in with the rest of the coaching staff. We had a little bit of turnover, but not much. He’s taking a hard look at our personnel right now, what we have in place, finding areas we have to address in the off-season, draft, free agency, whatever it is. It’s probably a little bit premature to say what we’re going to look like next fall. I really don’t want to give that out. He’s a bright guy. He’s got some great ideas. Football is pure to him. He loves to run the ball, loves to take his shots down the field. We’re not going to waste any plays. It’s great to have Pep. Once we continue to move forward and get through this combine, we’ll have a better idea of where we need to go as far as adding players."
On much of a West Coast influence will be seen – more yards after catch or catch after yards.
"If you just look at it, the West Coast style offense there’s a higher completion rate. I think Andrew (Luck) completed probably over 70 percent of his passes while at Stanford. That rate was high there the last couple of years, like it is with any West Coast offense. I’m sure there will be things we’ll look at and look to implement as far as the West Coast concepts go, a few more check-downs, underneath routes, run after catch."
On if team can keep relying on comebacks and third-down production like had in 2012.
"As long as 12 (Andrew Luck) is under center and we have the weapons around him, yeah, we can count on that."
On T.Y. Hilton production.
"We saw a very, very explosive athlete, a guy who could make plays. Once he caught his stride and got healthy, we saw exactly the same thing we saw on college tape we saw out here on Sundays. Our expectations are high for everybody. He places high expectations on himself. I think we just got a taste of what he’s capable of doing, not only receiving, run after catch, but the return game also."
On how he evaluates those types players (like T.Y. Hilton) at the combine.
"In the evaluation process, you’re going to look at everything. You’re going to take bits and pieces from the combine, any all-star games they played in, but mostly the body of work is going to come from their collegiate tape."
On how Bruce Arians relates with players and the type of job he will do in Arizona.
"I would say pretty good. He’s got a great way with players. He always has. There’s a reason when I got this job the first phone call I made was to Bruce. Not only is he a great football coach and has a great football mind and has been successful everywhere he’s been, he’s a better person and a better man. He cares about kids. We talked from day one about building relationships, not only amongst our coaching staff but with our players. He’ll do the same thing in Arizona he did here. We were able to sustain and get done what we wanted to get done this season and accomplish what we accomplished because of those skills he has."
On how much Bruce Arians’ loss will be for the Colts.
"You hate to lose anybody. I was very clear when I came back and the season was finally over that we certainly didn’t want to lose Bruce. He was an integral part. You can’t put a pricetag on what he did and what he meant to this organization, what he meant to this city, what he meant to our team. At the same time, we said, ‘You check your ego at the door. You put that aside. You come in, do your job and understand your role and when you have success, good things are going to happen to a lot of people.’ That’s a by-product of where Bruce is now and having the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. It’s a long time coming, well-deserved. It’s just a by-product of success."
On Pat McAfee and his importance.
"He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed. We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks. I sat in a hospital bed and from home for 12 weeks and watched him pin guys back inside the 20, inside the 10 over and over again. To have a weapon like that is a tremendous asset to a team. It helps with field position, helps our offense, helps our defense, set up long fields for opponent’s offenses, things like that. It’s a huge priority getting Pat back."
On what impressed him the most about the team last year.
"Just how resilient they were, how fast they came together. From day one, they bought into what our plan and vision was. Just their resiliency. You look at it and the first game I was away, they came back from a 21-3 deficit and upset Green Bay here at home. Then, you have a devastating loss and they come back and won two or three ballgames. They never lost two games in a row. Just their perseverance, their resiliency, the leadership I saw. Re-signing Reggie (Wayne) and Robert (Mathis) and having their leadership along with Dwight (Freeney), Pat (McAfee) Antoine (Bethea), Adam (Vinatieri) and Cory (Redding). The leadership I saw was tremendous. It was fun to watch. As bad as we played in the first half at Houston, we were only down 10 points. I’m looking at my wife saying, ‘This is no problem. Relax, we’re going to come back and win this game.’ That’s how I think they felt. That’s how our coaching staff felt and that’s certainly how I felt watching from afar each week."
On Bruce Arians and how tough to lose him.
"It’s hard because we have a strong relationship. He’s a great friend and confidant. It’s tough. You’re expecting him to walk into your suite at night and do interviews with you. He’s going to walk down to another suite and handle his own interviews. We’re really excited for Bruce, Kris and his entire family for the opportunity he has in front of him."
On the return of Josh Chapman and others.
"Having him back is going to be a bonus. Getting Chappie where we got him was a bonus. Because of the injury, he would have been at least a second-rounder if he weren’t injured. We erred on the side of caution with Josh. He just wasn’t ready to go. We’re looking for great things out of him. Brandon (McKinney) is doing a great job with his rehab. They’re both big bodies. They know how to play the game. They can play square. They can knock them back up front. They can handle the line of scrimmage. Those types of things. As far as things we need to shore up on the defensive line and run defense, they’re going to play an integral part."
On how far he is from having the 3-4 defense he wants to have.
"I don’t think we’re that far away. You get those two guys healthy (Josh Chapman, Brandon McKinney) and find a couple other pieces to the puzzle in the front seven, a backer here, a backer there, I think we’re close."
On if he feels Vontae Davis is the answer.
"Yeah, absolutely, especially in the last couple of games. We all (scouted) Vontae coming out. We knew why Miami took him where they took him when he came out of Illinois as a very young man, I think a 20-year old junior. We saw what he brings to the table. I think I was on record earlier in saying you wouldn’t be able to get a Vontae Davis in the second round in any draft. I feel great where he’s at and where he’s headed. His best football is ahead of him."
On if Dwight Freeney’s replacement is on the roster.
"We saw flashes of a lot of guys who got playing time. When Dwight was out of there, there were opportunities for guys like Jerry (Hughes), Justin Hickman. There are some bodies there. Time will tell. I know we’ve all been waiting for Jerry. My expectations for him are to come in and be the guy we all thought he could be. I think he feels the same way. We’ve seen evidence on tape where he’s flashed and shown those signs. What we saw from him in college where he could be that guy. I fully expect him to show up and be ready to take over."