Entire team to attend funeral Tuesday in Florida

Updated: December 26, 2005, 12:02 AM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Caldwell is keeping things in perspective now that he's taken over as coach of the Indianapolis Colts while Tony Dungy deals with the death of his son.

Jose Cortez
AP Photo/John FroschauerThe Colts wore 'JD' decals on their helmets Saturday in memory of James Dungy.

"This game is secondary to life itself and, obviously, there are a lot more important things than this," the assistant head coach said Friday. "But sometimes life throws you a curveball, and you have to adjust."

Colts owner Jim Irsay will charter a plane to take the entire team, including players and staff, to the funeral of James Dungy, 18. Colts players wore "JD" decals on the back of their helmets for Saturday's game in Seattle, won by the Seahawks 28-13.

James Dungy's viewing Monday and funeral Tuesday, at Wilson Funeral Home in Tampa, Fla., are open to the public, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Dungy flew to Tampa on Thursday after his son was found dead in a Florida apartment earlier in the day. A preliminary autopsy report Friday indicated the teen took his life, but the cause of death won't be released until a toxicology examination is finished in four to six weeks, the medical examiner said.

According to police reports, James Dungy told a deputy who arrived at his home Oct. 21 that he was depressed and had taken pills. When emergency services responded to the call, he was taken to a hospital, Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Caldwell, who has been shrouded in virtual anonymity outside the innermost NFL circles, now has the daunting task of keeping a 13-2 team focused in as it gets ever so closer to the playoffs.

The daily tests included last Sunday's loss to San Diego, the Colts' first of the season; and their second in a row Sunday, to a Seahawks team that also is 13-2 and clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

But Thursday's news shoved aside any other story lines. Caldwell took over a shaken team that offered its prayers and heartfelt empathy for their coach's family even as team officials continued debating how much, or whether, to play starters against Seattle.

Enter Caldwell, a 28-year coaching veteran who took his first NFL job with Tampa Bay in 2001. He came, with Dungy, to Indianapolis in 2002 as the quarterbacks coach and was promoted to assistant head coach last season.

In his new role, Caldwell has been forced to balance the daily rigors of medical updates, game planning and critiquing practices with embracing his family, something he considers especially important under these circumstances.

And his quiet, unassuming personality and attention to detail makes Caldwell appear a Dungy clone -- even if he bristles at the suggestion.

"I'm not certain I'd put myself anywhere close to his category," Caldwell said. "He's a very special individual, and he'll be back in due time. I can tell you I pale in comparison to him."

His compassionate approach, though, has helped the Colts cope with Dungy's tragedy.

"The great thing about it is that this team is a great reflection of its head coach, they emulate him to a 'T' in certain respects," Caldwell said. "Especially when there's some adversity and this is a very tough time."

Indianapolis has already clinched the AFC South title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage, and it is considering resting its starters for the playoffs. That means Caldwell must devise a way to inspire his players in an otherwise meaningless game.

It's an opportunity for Caldwell to thrive on the national stage since the game has been billed as a Super Bowl preview. But Caldwell views it differently. It's a way to help out a friend by leading his team the way Dungy would want.

"Coach Dungy and his family are very close to all of us, and it is a very difficult time for all of us," Caldwell said. "But he's told us to carry on as usual, and that's what we're going to try and do."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press