Chuck Pagano stepped to the podium Monday, hugged his team owner, thanked his family for its support and wiped a tear from his eye.
Nearly three months to the day after being diagnosed with leukemia, the Indianapolis Colts' first-year coach returned to a team eager to reunite with a boss healthy enough to go back to work.
"I told you my best day of my life was July 1, 1989," Pagano said, referring to his wedding date. "Today was No. 2. ... When I asked for Bruce to take over, I asked for him to kick some you-know-what and to do great. Damn Bruce, you had to go and win nine games? Tough act to follow. ... That's what I have to come back to."
The comment turned tears into the laughter everyone expected on such a festive occasion.
For Pagano and the Colts, Monday morning was as precious as anyone could have imagined when he took an indefinite leave to face the biggest opponent of his life, cancer.
In his absence, all the Colts did was win nine of 12 games under interim coach Bruce Arians, make a historic turnaround and clinch a playoff spot all before Sunday's regular-season finale against Houston, which they pegged as the day they hoped to have Pagano back.
If all goes well at practice this week, Pagano will be on the sideline for the first time since a Week 3 loss to Jacksonville.
Pagano endured three rounds of chemotherapy to put his cancer in remission.
"I know Chuck is ready for this challenge. In speaking to his doctor multiple times, I know that the time is right for him to grab the reins, get the head coaching cap on and begin the journey," owner Jim Irsay said. "It's been a miraculous story. It really is a book."
Jets: Coach Rex Ryan shed no light on the Tim Tebow controversy, offering no straight answers on why the backup quarterback was active for Sunday's 27-17 loss to San Diego yet didn't play a snap.
A league source indicated Tebow had expressed to the coaching staff Tuesday that he preferred not to be used as a wildcat quarterback after being passed over by Ryan for third-stringer Greg McElroy as the Jets' starter after the benching of Mark Sanchez.
Tebow told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Sunday night there was a strain in his relationship with Ryan early last week but that he told Ryan on Friday he was willing to play in the wildcat. However, the game plan already had been installed with wide receiver Jeremy Kerley as the primary wildcat quarterback.
"No question he was disappointed that he was not named the starter," Ryan said Monday, before adding, "I'm not going to get into private conversations I have with players."
Eagles: Rookie quarterback Nick Foles has a broken right hand, and coach Andy Reid said Michael Vick likely will start against the New York Giants in Sunday's season finale.
Steelers: Tight end Heath Miller sustained multiple torn ligaments in his right knee during Sunday's loss to Cincinnati. Typical recovery time would extend well into next season's training camp.
Bills: Buffalo placed tight end Scott Chandler on injured reserve a day after he hurt his left knee in a loss to Miami.
Jaguars: The team placed receiver Cecil Shorts III on injured reserve after his second concussion of the month.
Porter released: Authorities say former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter was released from Kern County jail in Bakersfield after paying $70,000 owed to the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.
Wire services contributed to this report.