INDIANAPOLIS – One of the best players on the Indianapolis Colts is stepping away from football to deal with a whole different level of fight.
Punter Rigoberto Sanchez announced on Monday that he is having surgery this week for a cancerous tumor. The surgery will take place on Tuesday and force Sanchez to stop playing football for an unknown amount of time.
Sanchez posted the following message to his Instagram on Monday morning:
“Like I said before, it’s always God’s plan and it will always be bigger than my plans. So grateful to be surrounded by doctors that helped me catch the cancerous tumor before it spread all over my body. I will be getting surgery on Tuesday and I know that it will not be an easy bump on the road, but I know I have my amazing wife supporting me along with family, coaches, and friends reaching out. Unfortunately, there are things you can’t control in life and this is one of them. No plans or preparation would have gotten me ready for this kind of adversity, but like I told my wife, we can’t flinch. Keep striving to come back stronger than ever. Makes me sick that I’ll have to miss some time playing beside my brothers, but I know they will hold it down. I will be watching. Love y’all. #God’sPlan #ColtsNation”
Following the post of Sanchez, there was an outcrying of support on social media from present and former teammates, and many from all around the NFL.
Frank Reich said later on Monday that the Colts originally learned about Sanchez’s situation late last week. After consulting doctors, Sanchez decided he wanted to play against the Titans.
“We are just thankful we caught it before it spread,” Reich said. “We talk often about culture in our building and the character and makeup of our players on this team. The kind of person Rigo is, he’s one of the most-well liked and respected players in our building.”
“We have no doubt that he’ll overcome this. We are 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 are very optimistic, but knowing Rigo, God willing, it’ll be sooner rather than later We just have to take that and see the how procedure goes.”
Since 2017, Sanchez has been the punter for the Colts, taking over for the talented Pat McAfee.
Not only did Sanchez win that ’17 competition against veteran free agent signing Jeff Locke, he has performed at an extremely high level with that unit continuing to be a strength.
“Huge, positive vibes being sent to Rigoberto Sanchez,” McAfee said on Monday via his daily radio show, The Pat McAfee Show. “He has been unbelievable. He got the gig immediately after I left. He was an undrafted free agent and was brought in to compete with (Locke), who was signed to a (free agent) contract. Rigoberto Sanchez came in, worked his ass off and beat Jeff for the gig both punting and kicking off.
“He has been one of the most dominant punters in the NFL since the day he started…he just eliminates the returner. He hits fair catches, he hits the ball to the side. It’s very much what we did at the end of my career. He’s picked it up and done it even better than I was doing it. Incredible talent. Really cool dude. Hard working guy. Humble dude.”
The first public concern over Sanchez physically came on Sunday when he wasn’t doing his normal kickoff duties. It was Rodrigo Blankenship handling those for the first time this season.
Frank Reich was asked about that after Sunday’s loss.
“Yeah, Rigo is dealing with a physical issue that we have to get further evaluated,” the head coach said. “I give Rigo a lot of credit for the way he punted today and for really coming through for us when we needed him the way that he did.”
Considering what Sanchez had on his mind during that game, he most certainly did his job.
Sanchez punted 5 times on Sunday, with a 50.8 average.
He has spearheaded a special teams unit that has been very strong for the vast majority of 2020.
Sanchez, who turned 26 back in September, got married last season. He’s under contract through the 2023 season after signing a deserved 4-year extension back in June 2019.
Without any other kicker or punter on the practice squad, the Colts will have to add one to the active roster this week. Sanchez was also this team’s kickoff specialist and holder.
Reich said on Monday that Chris Ballard began that search for a substitute punter last week. It should be finalized in the coming days.