Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and Colts coach Chuck Pagano embrace prior to the teams playing in 2013.
Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano last traded texts at the end of the preseason, the two friends knowing they would see each other in Week 2 of the regular season.
They probably didn't expect their newest reunion to be like this, after the Colts were hammered by 37 points against the Rams and the Cardinals lost a disappointing opener in Detroit. The two men, already friends, were permanently intertwined in the national consciousness when Arians famously took over the Colts for the cancer-stricken Pagano in 2012. Arians had his share of health concerns last season.
Right now, though, it's their teams that need attention.
"Shoot, the health scares are nothing," Pagano said. "It's the football crap that will kill you."
The line brought a smile to Arians' face, at a time that maybe he needs it. The Cards not only lost but
lost running back David Johnson too, a hard way to start a season.
Now he goes back to Indianapolis for the first time as an opposing head coach, to the city where he was beloved for steering the Colts to the playoffs while his friend recovered in time to coach in the postseason that year. The effort not only won Arians Coach of the Year honors, but was the reason the Cardinals hired him as their coach in 2013.
Arians has been back to Indianapolis multiple times, thanks to the NFL Scouting combine.
"I'll get a feeling when I walk in the stadium," Arians said. "It's different than the Combine, that's for sure. But, I've been back and forth as a visitor and the home team about four times (with different teams), so it's no big difference."
That doesn't mean it won't be special.
"I think it'll be crazy," said Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, who was on that 2012 team. "I know that he and
Pagano are going to have a moment. The atmosphere is going to be rocking and exciting to have him back here."
Arians isn't into nostalgia right now. It was fresh in his memory when Pagano and the Colts visited University of Phoenix Stadium in 2013. The story was still at the forefront of people's minds, and the Cardinals ended up dominating in a 40-11 win.
Now, Arians is lamenting what both he and his friend are going through as coaches, especially with injuries. The Colts don't have their quarterback (Andrew Luck), their center (Ryan Kelly) or best cornerback (Vontae Davis.) The Cards don't have Johnson or left tackle D.J. Humphries.
"You build a whole football team and you get all set up and then you lose (players)," Arians said. "So with that stuff, it's like, 'OK. Regroup.' Sooner or later, that wears on you."
Football life can be hard. But Arians and Pagano have each other to lean on – except on Sunday.
"That relationship is for life," Pagano said. "What happened back in 2012, none of us will ever forget that. What he did, stepping in and leading this organization and team the way he did, I don't think it will ever happen again. The memories from that will stay with us forever and that relationship is something that is going to last a lifetime, obviously.
"But, at the end of the day, we need a win; they need a win. So, forget all that crap once that ball is kicked off. You know B.A. He'll say the same thing."
Images from the first practice of Colts week, including new running back D.J. Foster