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Colts/NFL

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Colts facing emotional challenge

– The Colts split time last week between the intricacies of football and the harsh realities of life.

Before and after practice, they called and sent text messages to their ailing coach, Chuck Pagano, discussed his battle with leukemia and coped with the stunning news.

Today, the Colts can finally take a break – for about three hours – when Green Bay comes to town.

“That (the football field) is where you get away from your worldly troubles, the things that are weighing on you,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “That’s where we get to be who we are and once the game is over, you go back to life.”

Interim coach Bruce Arians will be calling the shots for the first time in his two-decade NFL career.

Defensive players will be talking exclusively with coordinator Greg Manusky and his assistants on the sideline.

Pagano, who turned 52 on Tuesday, is expected to spend six to eight weeks in an Indianapolis hospital as he undergoes treatment. He is not expected to resume his full head-coaching duties this season.

So while players are psyched up to win one for Pagano, Arians is pleading with the Colts (1-2) to honor their coach by playing the way Pagano preaches – relentlessly hard.

The Packers know what they’re up against.

Just 8 1/2 months ago, Green Bay walked onto its home field for a playoff game against the New York Giants less than a week after the body of a 21-year-old man was pulled out of the Fox River. It was the son of former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, now the Dolphins coach.

The best team in the regular season in 2011 wound up losing to the eventual Super Bowl champs in the biggest upset of the playoffs.

Arians and the Colts tried to keep things as normal as possible last week.

They practiced and met at the same times, took their regularly scheduled Tuesday off, pored over film, installed a game plan and kept trying to fine-tune ways to slow down the likes of Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and Charles Woodson.

“Anytime you’re dealing with a situation bigger than the game, bigger than football, it’s always tough,” Raji said. “I would think I’d want to go out and try to win the game for my coach. We can’t worry about that. I wish them the best, but on that particular day, we’re trying to win the game.”

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