News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 4, 2013

Pagano prepares Colts for tough crowd in Baltimore

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — As a former resident of Baltimore, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knows all about the hard feelings that still run strong about the move of the Colts franchise to Indianapolis in 1984.

Despite the fact that Pagano was a well-liked and respected assistant coach for the Baltimore Ravens for four seasons (2008-11) and was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator last season, he received a few jabs from the local press when he accepted the head coaching job with the Colts nearly a year ago (Jan. 25, 2012).

“When this opportunity [becoming the head coach] presented itself, I remember seeing the [Baltimore] paper when I left town. I was driving a Mayflower [moving van] out of town, so I fully understand. They had me in the [truck] cab if I remember right. It didn’t take long for that to happen,” Pagano joked earlier this week.

“We talked about it this [week] as a team. They all understand what transpired [the Colts move from Baltimore]. Passionate, passionate fans in the NFL and they’re no different than anybody else. So [I] understand how those people feel.”

To set the record straight, the Colts coach said that he leaves it up to his wife to handle all of the moving details.

“My wife usually handles it [because] I’m never there for any of them. So I’ve got to hear the end of that. Actually, I don’t know who did [the transporting of the family’s furniture],” Pagano smiled.

One thing he does know is that M&T Bank Stadium will be rocking Sunday (1 p.m., CBS Sports) for the Colts-Ravens AFC wild-card game. Being a home playoff game is one reason. But it’s also the first game to be played in Baltimore since Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis announced his plans to retire after the season concludes.

Pagano and Lewis became close as coach and player over the last few seasons. He understands the city’s love for the future Hall of Famer.

“We know, just coming back, I’m pretty sure they’ll probably introduce the defense and he’ll be the last one out and we all know how that one goes,” he previewed.

“[Lewis will] ignite and insight a riot, so to speak [among the fans and his Ravens’ teammates]. There will be a ton of energy on that football team and on that sideline and in that stadium. He’s their leader and anytime you get your leader back, it’s an added spark.”

• Preparing the younger players — Defensive end Cory Redding has played at M&T Bank Stadium before as a member of the Ravens.

Redding spent the last two seasons as a member of Baltimore’s vaunted defensive unit.

He has tried to impart some advice to the younger member of the Colts’ roster in order to prepare them for Sunday’s wild-card playoff game.

“Our young guys have played in four playoff games this year. Green Bay is a playoff team, Minnesota is a playoff team and Houston twice is a playoff team,” Redding said.

“I believe our guys have gotten playoff experience from playoff teams this year. We set our mind to situations where this is a playoff atmosphere. This is a playoff situation in practice and to compete and to win.”

Try and treat Sunday as just another game. Easy to say, but hard to do. But that’s the goal this week.

“In our eyes, this is just another game for us because we’ve been in playoff situations all year,” Redding voiced.

“It’s going to be good for our guys to get into this element and to continue to fight like we’ve been doing all year.”

• Amazing season — Placekicker Adam Vinatieri has seen a lot of amazing football during his NFL career with New England and the Colts. But trying to put into words what’s transpired this season in Indianapolis is tough to do.

“I think a lot of people outside of this building were surprised at where we’re at right now. I don’t think anybody in this room had any anticipations other than where we’re at right now. We knew we had a good team,” he said.

“There’s been some ups and downs and some crazy things that have happened this year, Chuck [Pagano] battling through the cancer thing and B.A. [Bruce Arians] stepping in. It’s been an interesting year but it’s been rewarding for us all. I think the book is not done being written yet.”

• Davis AFC Defensive Player of the Week — Cornerback Vontae Davis became the third Colts cornerback to earn AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors this season.

He had a pair of interceptions in Indianapolis’ 28-16 win over Houston last Sunday.

Besides Davis, Darius Butler (week 10) and Cassius Vaughn (Week 14) also won the award. He has recorded three interceptions in the past two games and had a potential fourth pick taken away by a pass interference call.

• Injury list — Sitting out Thursday were defensive tackle Kellen Heard (illness), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (rest), offensive guard Joe Reitz (concussion) and offensive tackle Bradley Sowell (illness).

Inside linebacker Pat Angerer (illness), running back Delone Carter (ankle), inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (thumb), outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest), nose tackle Antonio Johnson (ankle), offensive tackle Winston Justice (biceps), quarterback Andrew Luck (knee), center Samson Satele (ankle), center A.Q. Shipley (knee), cornerback Teddy Williams (knee), safety Tom Zbikowski (knee) and Redding (quad) all fully practiced.

The flu bug that has been making its way around the Colts locker room led to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians missing Thursday’s practice. Arians had a doctor’s appointment and missed the workout. He is expected back for today’s practice.

• Add Bears to the list — The Chicago Bears are the first team to officially request an interview with Arians for the team’s vacant head coaching position.

San Diego and Cleveland officials also want to talk to the veteran NFL assistant coach.

Colts vice president of football operations Tom Telesco is also the object of interest for the Chargers as the team’s possible new general manager.