FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — ChuckStrong has become a mantra among the Indianapolis Colts after head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.
For some on the New York Jets, the connection is just as personal.
Linebacker Bart Scott, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and coach Rex Ryan were all with the Ravens when Pagano was the defensive backs coach. Those three, along with and several other members of the Jets organization, made T-shirts in Pagano's honor and posed Friday for a photo that they texted to him.
"It's just like a friend being hurt: You send them things to make the time go by," Scott said. "A game is a game, but this is real life."
"We know Chuck, we don't just say good wishes," Scott added. "He always made it fun, we had a party every day in meetings and practices had a bunch of energy. Players love him."
Scott makes it clear that he has separated the idea of Pagano, his friend, from the idea of Pagano as a motivating factor for the Colts, who face the Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Still, that team has united in the wake of Pagano's announcement earlier this month that he would miss the rest of the season in order to seek treatment.
"I really believe football is so much about momentum and about spark and enthusiasm," Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow said. "When you have that momentum in a game, leading up to a game, something to believe in, gosh I think that makes you play harder, play more physical."
Tebow said he has been praying for Pagano.
"That's more important than winning a football game," Tebow said. "I just want that to be clear."
So there are two things at play for the Jets: a deep respect for a man in a real and important struggle, and a football game to be played.
"I just think the world of him," Ryan said of Pagano. "But with that said, we have our own things we are playing for and one of those is, we need a win in the worst way."