Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was hospitalized in December after being found unresponsive at his Carmel, Indiana home, according to multiple reports. Irsay, 64, is currently undergoing treatment for a severe respiratory illness, with the Colts asking for privacy as he recovers. However, further details have emerged about the scary incident that led to his hospitalization last month.
Irsay Found on Floor of His Home, Struggling to Breathe
According to a report by TMZ, police responded to a 911 call at Irsay’s home on December 8th. When officers arrived, they found Irsay on the floor of his bathroom, unresponsive and turning blue as he struggled to breathe.
Police suspected a potential overdose and administered Narcan, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses. Irsay began breathing normally after being given Narcan and oxygen. He was then rushed to a nearby Indianapolis hospital for further evaluation and treatment.
The Colts have not commented specifically on the Narcan use or overdose suspicions. They released a statement saying Irsay is being treated for a respiratory illness and asking for privacy. However, the use of Narcan by police suggests drug involvement may have played a role in Irsay’s medical emergency.
Irsay Has History of Substance Abuse
While the Colts have not provided full details on this latest incident, Irsay does have a history of battling substance addiction that lends credence to the overdose suspicions.
In 2014, Irsay pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He was arrested after being spotted driving erratically and was found to have multiple prescription drugs in his possession without a prescription. Irsay was suspended by the NFL and completed a stint in rehab following the 2014 incident.
Irsay has been open about fighting addiction for much of his adult life. In 2002, he checked into rehab for prescription drug abuse but relapsed in the years after. His 2014 arrest represented another low point that spurred him to renew his recovery efforts.
|Enters rehab for prescription drug abuse
|Arrested for OWI while in possession of prescription medications. Later pleads guilty. Suspended by NFL and sent to rehab
|Hospitalized after being found unresponsive at home. Police suspect overdose
While Irsay’s addiction issues have been relatively public, this latest emergency suggests he may have suffered another relapse. The Narcan use shows that drug intoxication potentially played a central role in his being rushed to the hospital last month.
Irsay Remains Hospitalized a Month Later
Nearly six weeks after the December 8th incident, Irsay remains hospitalized. After some early signs of improvement, Irsay’s respiratory condition apparently worsened in late December. He was returned to intensive care and placed on oxygen support.
Doctors diagnosed Irsay with aspiration pneumonitis, a lung inflammation condition often occurring after choking or vomiting. This supports the notion that intoxication may have initially caused Irsay to lose consciousness. Aspiration can occur when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Irsay is still struggling with his breathing and relying on oxygen support. The Colts have provided no firm timeline for his discharge from the hospital.
With Irsay remaining sidelined by this health crisis, there are now big questions about what comes next for the team. As owner, CEO, and main decision-maker, Irsay’s absence leaves a huge leadership void.
Daughters Taking Over Operations amid Irsay Recovery
With the 64-year old Irsay still recovering, responsibility for team operations is falling on Irsay’s three daughters – Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Irsay-Foyt, and Kalen Irsay. The daughters have gradually taken on a larger role in recent years but now face a sudden increase in duties with their dad hospitalized.
Irsay-Gordon was named Colts vice chair and co-owner back in 2018. She has publicly discussed being groomed to eventually take over as controlling owner. But that transition was not expected to accelerate this rapidly.
The daughters face a difficult situation, balancing their family crisis with obligations to the team. Players and coaches are depending on them to maintain stability within the organization. So far, head coach Jeff Saturday has expressed confidence that “it’s business as usual” despite Irsay’s absence.
However, the daughters now have a tall task in temporarily filling their father’s shoes. Major offseason decisions around personnel, staffing, and salary cap management are rapidly approaching. With Jim Irsay’s health still an uncertainty, his daughters are on the spot to keep the Colts on track and build on an encouraging 2023 season.
Questions Around Potential Sale if Irsay Remains Sidelined
While Irsay’s daughters can handle short-term leadership, an extended absence by Jim Irsay may raise larger questions about the club’s future ownership structure. There is already speculation that a partial or full sale of the team could be considered if Irsay is unable to resume his prior workload.
Irsay has already sold a minority stake worth several hundred million dollars to Kraft Heinz chief Michael Mullen. Rumors have suggested Irsay could look to offload even more ownership equity to facilitate his daughters eventually taking over.
But if Irsay remains encumbered by long-term health issues, more substantive conversations around selling the club could occur. Forbes recently valued the Colts at $3.7 billion. A total sale would likely fetch over $4 billion given recent NFL team transactions.
For now, a sale remains speculative as the focus is still on Irsay’s recovery in the hospital. But with his outlook uncertain and daughters thrust into leadership, ownership changes cannot be ruled out long-term if Irsay remains unable to fully resume his duties.
The coming weeks will be telling as to whether Irsay can bounce back from this health crisis or if an extended absence is imminent. Colts executives, coaches, players and fans are all pulling for Irsay to make progress in his recovery. But with the 2024 offseason now fully underway, the team also needs to prepare contingency plans for decision-making and leadership if their owner remains sidelined.
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