Colts coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with leukemia and is expected to be hospitalized six to eight weeks as he undergoes treatment.
He will be replaced on an interim basis by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Team owner Jim Irsay made the announcement on Monday during a somber and sometimes emotional press conference at the team complex.
“I think it’s unlikely he’ll be all in as the head coach the rest of this season,” Irsay said. “He may be able to come back and be in the press box or something.”
The 51-year-old Pagano is in his first season with the Colts (1-2). He was hired in January after serving as the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator.
Larry Cripe, the physician treating the coach at Indiana University’s Simon Cancer Center, said Pagano has acute myeloid leukemia, where the bone marrow is producing abnormal white blood cells that interfere with healthy blood cells.
Symptoms can include weakness, weight loss and easy bruising or bleeding. Treatments include chemotherapy, drugs and radiation therapy.
Irsay said Pagano’s wife pushed him to see the doctor after noticing unusual bruising on the coach’s body.
The initial phase of treatment usually requires a hospital stay of four to five weeks, though Irsay later acknowledged he expected Pagano to be in hospital for at least six weeks.
Cripe said Pagano began the “arduous” treatment last week and that many adults do recover from the disease. For now, Pagano is being kept in a “protected” hospital environment, where air is filtered and hand-washing is essential.
Pagano was admitted last Wednesday evening — the team had a bye this weekend and the players and assistants, other than Arians, were not told Pagano was ill until Monday morning.