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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Chuck Pagano could blame New England for one of his most bitter football memories.

On the other hand, that loss also opened a new chapter in Pagano’s life.

Now, three years after that stinging 23-20 championship game loss against the Patriots, the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator is getting a second chance to earn a Super Bowl ticket at New England — this time as the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach.

“We wouldn’t be having this discussion right now had things transpired in a different way,” Pagano said as Indianapolis prepares for Sunday’s AFC championship game.

He has often contended that if the Ravens won that day — on Lee Evans’ near-touchdown catch with 27 seconds left or in overtime, if Billy Cundiff had made a 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds to go — that he never would have landed in Indy (13-5).

General manager Ryan Grigson didn’t go that far this week, though he did recall watching the game and going through some old notes about Pagano almost immediately after Cundiff’s kick sailed wide left. Within 24 hours, Grigson had contacted Ravens coach John Harbaugh for permission to interview Pagano, who was still angry.

“The bitterness was still emanating from him, even when we brought him in,” Grigson said. “So that game was his loss, but our gain because when he finally came in, it was evident to all of us in that room that this was the right guy.”

Three days after the game, Pagano accepted his first head coaching job.

At first, the outlook looked bleak.

The Colts were in the midst of a salary-cap purge and about embarked on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects. They started by releasing a bevy of fan favorites including the seemingly untouchable Peyton Manning. Pagano now jokes that at one point he looked around his office and asked his wife, Tina, “what the heck did we just do?”

Grigson never asked the same question about a man he viewed as a leader that could pull the best out of his players.

Pagano proved to be everything Grigson envisioned and more, on and off the field.

He helped convince Reggie Wayne, one of his old college players, to stick around for a hometown discount. He helped recruit defensive tackle Arthur Jones and defensive end Cory Redding, both starters who were in the Ravens’ locker room that awful day in New England, as free agents. It didn’t take much of a push.

“I know what kind of guy he is, stand-up guy, shoots it straight to you, fun, energetic at practice, expects a lot out of you in the meeting rooms to know your stuff,” Redding said, explaining why he left a championship contender to join a team that went 2-14 the year before he came. “Knowing the system, knowing him, it was just easy for me to make the decision.”

It turned out the Colts’ incredible turnaround was about a lot more than just wins and losses.

Three games into Pagano’s tenure, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Pagano spent 25 days at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis as longtime friends Wayne, Redding and Bruce Arians and new friends such as Robert Mathis, Andrew Luck, Grigson and team owner Jim Irsay rallied the team. After returning home, the treatments continued for two more months.

The team responded to Pagano’s absence by winning nine times, none more electrifying than the second-half comeback against Green Bay when Wayne caught 13 passes for a career high 212 yards and the winning score with 35 seconds left. Irsay and Grigson hand-delivered the game ball to Pagano at the hospital.

“I can’t imagine being anywhere else and having a city and a community embrace somebody they hardly know,” Pagano said when he returned to the team complex on Christmas Eve. “I just think that’s how we roll in this great state, this great city and this great community.”

And Pagano just kept winning.

Indy completed one its nine-game improvement over the 2011 season by winning in Pagano’s first game back on the sideline. The Colts have won 11 more regular-season games each of the past two seasons, the last two AFC South titles and here playoff games.

But those who were with Pagano in Baltimore know that’s not good enough yet.

“That loss lingered the whole offseason,” said Jones, who was part of Baltimore’s 2013 world championship team. “It was a tough way to end your year after making it that far. It bothers you.”

So this week with a second shot, Pagano is taking none at the Patriots.

He’s just focused on trying to get the biggest win — and best memory — of his coaching career.

“It’s about the game, it’s about the team, it’s about us doing our job,” Pagano said Monday. “We know how great a team we’re going to play. You’ve got a Hall of Fame coach, a Hall of Fame quarterback and a bunch of great players on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a tall order.”

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams said everything is fine between him and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis after the two spoke face-to-face this week for the first time since Adams accused Davis of “head hunting” for a blindside hit that gave him a concussion.

Adams said Thursday that Davis sought him out on Monday, when the NFC players arrived in Orlando for the Pro Bowl, and apologized for the hit, which occurred late in the Panthers’ 31-24 victory at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 17.

“He came and hollered at me the first day,” Adams told ESPN. “It happened about a little over a month ago now so we kind of settled it. I’m trying to let bygones be bygones.

“Obviously you don’t forget things like that, but at the same time we’re teammates out here and you want to be civil and still have a good time so that’s what it’s about.”

The day after the play happened, Adams, via Twitter, accused Davis of “head hunting” because he led with his helmet. Adams posted a series of tweets critical of the hit and Davis, who responded to one of the tweets and apologized.
Davante Adams

@tae15adams
I’ll never understand it. Game is already dangerous enough and we got Pro Bowl players out here head hunting and saying they “didn’t mean to harm me”
11:45 PM – Dec 18, 2017
697 697 Replies 5,933 5,933 Retweets 23,756 23,756 likes
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Davante Adams

@tae15adams
Somebody please explain to me what I wasnt trying to hurt him means when we nowhere near the play and u lead with ya head and ear hole a defenseless player….
11:46 PM – Dec 18, 2017
462 462 Replies 4,135 4,135 Retweets 18,426 18,426 likes
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“In no way was I trying to hurt you,” Davis tweeted. “My first instinct was turn and make a block. In all sincerity I do apologize. I truly respect you as a player and I made a mistake!”

That was the second concussion that Adams had suffered in 2017.

18 Dec

Davante Adams

@tae15adams
I’ll never understand it. Game is already dangerous enough and we got Pro Bowl players out here head hunting and saying they “didn’t mean to harm me”

Thomas Davis

@ThomasDavisSDTM
I understand your frustration and I do apologize for the hit! In no way was I trying to hurt you. My first instinct was turn and make a block. In all sincerity I do apologize. I truly respect you as a player and I made a mistake!
12:29 AM – Dec 19, 2017
868 868 Replies 1,870 1,870 Retweets 9,313 9,313 likes
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Davis was suspended two games by the NFL for the hit. He told ESPN on Thursday that he wanted to apologize to Adams in person. “That was one of the things that I was most looking forward to, having that opportunity to sit down face-to-face with him and kind of explain my side of that situation, officially apologize to him face-to-face,” Davis said. “It wasn’t anything malicious and I said that to him in the message, but just I just really wanted to reiterate what I said to him in that message on social media.”

Davis said it was received well and that Adams accepted his apology.

“He said he understood,” Davis said. “He said that he was emotional when it happened. He was mad. But we’ve talked it out. We’re in a good place right now.”

Having won the Walter Payton Man of the Year, Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year and Bart Starr Award in his past, Davis has enjoyed a sterling reputation across the league when it comes to character.
He acknowledged that it’s been a challenge, however, conforming to new league rules as they pertain to hard hitting and avoiding the head and neck area. It was a much different league when he entered it in 2004 and he admitted that he is still figuring out how to adjust.

“The guys I looked up to when I started — Derrick Brooks, Ray Lewis — the way that those guys played the game. I just try to mirror my game after that,” Davis said. “But at the same time, we’re moving to a different place in the NFL and guys like myself just have to understand that we have to comply with the rules.”

Davis added, “It’s definitely a lot harder to conform. It takes some time, just changing up the style of play.”