INDIANAPOLIS — The shocking news that Indianapolis Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez needs Tuesday surgery to remove a cancerous tumor was shared with optimism that the fourth-year pro fortunately detected the growth early.
Colts head coach Frank Reich said Monday the prognosis is encouraging for Sanchez, 26, to make a full recovery and the fourth-year specialist could return this season.
Sanchez was made aware of the diagnosis late in the week, but insisted on punting in Sunday’s 45-26 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
He shared the news first with a Monday Instagram post that was quickly shared throughout social media.
“We’re just thankful they caught it before it spread,” Reich said in a Monday Zoom video call. “We talk often about the culture in our building, the character and the makeup of the players on this team. Most if not all of you know ‘Rigo,’ and the kind of person he is, he’s one of the most well-liked and respected players in our building.
“We just want to reiterate how fortunate we are to have him as a leader, a teammate, and a friend. To further show the type of teammate he is, obviously he received the information late in the week, there was discussion on whether or not he would play or not play. You’ve got to just know ‘Rigo’ to know there was no way he was going to let the team down.”
Sanchez consulted with doctors and was given the go-ahead. He averaged 50.8 yards on five punts, with a long of 58 yards and net of 40.4 yards, as well as one downed inside the 20-yard line. Rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship handled kickoffs, which Reich said after the game was because Sanchez was dealing with an illness.
“He played great,” Reich said. “Just a true competitor. So we know that’s how he’s going to handle this off the field. We have no doubt he’ll overcome this. Obviously, we’re very optimistic about the prognosis and about the timetable to get back. We don’t want to put any date on a timetable, but we’re very optimistic. And knowing ‘Rigo,’ God willing, it will be sooner rather than later, but we just have to take that and see how the procedure goes and everything there.”
Colts general manager Chris Ballard had a short list of punters to review, and Reich said a replacement will be signed to handle duties in Sunday’s game at the Houston Texans.
“We love ‘Rigo,’” Reich said. “We’re here and supporting him, and just praying for a speedy recovery.”