Colts head coach Chuck Pagano met with the media for roughly 15 minutes on Saturday at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. With his hair nearly fully returned after spending several weeks during the 2012 season undergoing chemotherapy treatments to battle his leukemia, Pagano looked fresh, excited, and ready to tackle the 2013 season.
"I feel great and obviously feel very fortunate to be back and doing this Combine deal."
Pagano also acknowledged that, though he is in remission, he does not know if he will ever return to full strength, especially when that strength is compared to what a typical NFL head coach has to go through on a day-to-day basis.
"I don't know if that will ever be the same, to be honest with you."
When asked what sorts of limitations his doctors were requesting of him as he continues to recover, Pagano joked:
"Very little media."
Pagano told the media that he felt good and that the chemotherapy and other related treatments were "behind me." What's is in front of Pagano is a 2013 season full of high expectations. The second-year head coach acknowledged those expectations and stated that:
"We fully expect to back up last year with another great season."
Of course, he'll have to accomplish this without his friend, Bruce Arians. Arians left the Colts as offensive coordinator to take the vacant head coaching job in Arizona. When asked about entering 2013 with Bruce, Pagano was forthright:
"Its hard, you know, because, obviously, we've got a strong relationship. He's a great friend and confidant. It tough because you're expecting him to walk in your suite at night and do interviews with you, but he's walk down to another suite and handle is own interviews."
Replacing Arians is former Stanford offensive coordinator (or, as the title actually reads, the "Andrew Luck Director of Offense") Pep Hamilton. Pagano was very complimentary of Hamilton, calling him a "rising star" in the league. While Pagano did state that he did not want to give away what the offense will look like this upcoming season, he did confirm that Hamilton will bring West Coast Offense concepts to the Colts.
Obviously, a higher completion rate. I think Andrew completed probably over 70% of his passes while at Stanford and 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 look at and things well look to implement as far as the West Coast Offense concepts go. A few more check downs, underneath routes, run after the catch.
Regarding players, Pagano said that re-signing punter Pat McAfee is a "huge priority in free agency." McAfee is an unrestricted free agent entering the new league year. Pagano also spoke very well of 2010 first round pick Jerry Hughes, who has been a bust in Indianapolis for three seasons.
"I know we've all been waiting for Jerry, but 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."
Pagano spoke well of corner Vontae Davis, who the team traded for last year, sending a second round pick in this year's draft to the Dolphins. However, while praising Davis, Pagano might have let slip a desire to add another player to the Colts also named Vontae.
"I think I was on record record saying that you wouldn't get a Vontae Leach... excuse me, Vontae Davis. How about that? Wonder why I said that? We looking for a fullback? I don't think he's available. Can we scratch that from the record?"
Yes, the Colts are looking for a fullback. No, Leach is not available. He has one year left on a three-year deal he signed with Baltimore in 2011.
After several chuckles by everyone in the media room at Pagano confusing Davis for Leach, Pagano smiled and said:
"Blame it on the chemo."
Jokes aside, Pagano also made it clear that, in his mind, the Colts are just a few players away from truly "building a monster" and fielding a competitive defense.
"I think we're close."