Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez reveals cancer diagnosis, set to undergo surgery

Indianapolis Colts

NASHVILLE, TN – SEPTEMBER 15: Rigoberto Sanchez #8 of the Indianapolis Colts punts the ball during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Nashville,Tennessee. The Colts defeated the Titans 19-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – Rigoberto Sanchez revealed Monday he will undergo surgery Tuesday to address a cancerous tumor.

The Indianapolis Colts’ veteran punter is in the midst of another solid season and participated in Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans although he did not handle his normal kickoff duties. After the game, coach Frank Reich said Sanchez was “dealing with a physical issue that we have to get further evaluated.’’

As it turns out, that issue was a cancerous tumor that probably results in Sanchez being placed on the NFL’s reserve/non-football injury (NFI) list and being lost for the season.

Sanchez explained the situation via an Instagram post.

“Like I said before, it’s always God’s plan and it will always be bigger than my plans,’’ he wrote. “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 my family, coaches and friends reaching out.’’

Sanchez added, “There are things you can’t control in life and this is one of them. No plans or preparations 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.’’

Sanchez is in his fourth season with the Colts after signing as an undrafted rookie out of Hawaii in 2017. He quickly established himself as one of the NFL’s top punters and earned a four-year, $11.5 million extension in June 2019 that included $5 million in guarantees.

Sanchez ranks 9th in the league with a 47.2 gross average and tied for 17th with a 40.6 net. The latter figure is deceiving considering his situational expertise. Sanchez has had 15 of his 31 punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line while suffering only three touchbacks.

On a pure football level, the Colts must once again adjust to the loss of a key member of the team.

In the loss to the Titans, they were without Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly (neck), defensive linemen DeForest Buckner (reserve/COVID-19) and Denico Autry (COVID-19), linebacker Bobby Okereke (ankle) and rookie running back Jonathan Taylor (COVID-19). During the game, left tackle Anthony Castonzo suffered an injury to his right knee.

There is no legitimate replacement for Sanchez on the roster. Rookie placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship apparently did not put at Georgia.

General manager Chris Ballard undoubtedly has considered his options regarding signing a free agent, and that must occur quickly. A free agent must go through the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol before being added to the active roster.

The Colts are at the Houston Texans Sunday.

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