Colts unsure when Dungy will return after son's funeral
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tony Dungy and his wife stood for more than three hours Monday night, greeting hundreds of mourners with handshakes and hugs. From NFL players past and present to well-wishers off the street, all came to offer the couple condolences for the loss of their son.
The Indianapolis Colts coach and his wife, Lauren, will bury 18-year-old James Dungy on Tuesday.
Among those who waited hours to file through the tiny funeral home chapel were former Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella and representatives from several NFL teams. Many had never met James Dungy, but still felt compelled to show support for a soft-spoken man revered in this city as much more than a football coach.
The Dungys took the time to thank each person for coming by to pay respect to James, who was found dead in his suburban apartment last week of an apparent suicide. The exact cause of his death was pending the result of a toxicology report.
"Hopefully he felt the love that I have for him and Lauren," Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "He's doing the best he can under the circumstances. A lot of people have come to pay their respects because he's meant more to this community than just a football coach."
One woman, who described herself a lifelong Tampa resident who appreciates what Dungy continues to do for the city even though he's no longer leading the Bucs, said the coach seemed to be comforting well-wishers more than vice versa.
"He has got some strength," Katherine Palmer said, emphasizing each word.
Among the others filing past the open casket were Denver Broncos safety John Lynch, former Minnesota Vikings star Cris Carter, former Bucs and Colts kicker Martin Gramatica, current Bucs Mike Alstott, Dave Moore and Jeff Gooch and former Vikings head coach and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Les Steckel.
The crowd began forming about an hour before the visitation and about 300 people were lined up by the time coach Dungy and his family arrived at the funeral home in a limousine. Many of the VIP's were escorted to the front of the line, but others waited with the rest of the public.
The Colts still don't know when Dungy will return as coach, however he will be joined by his players Tuesday when the team flies to Florida to attend the funeral at Idlewild Baptist Church.
"I think it will be great for coach Dungy and I think it will be great for our team, our coaching staff and those people in the building who work with him day to day," Jim Caldwell, who is running the Colts in Dungy's absence, said in Indianapolis.
Caldwell has been in almost daily contact with Dungy and trying to keep the Colts in their routine. That included a scheduled three-day break even after a second straight loss Saturday, 28-13 at Seattle.
But discussion of playoffs, losses or the need to win another game to avoid a three-game skid heading into the playoffs has been overshadowed by Dungy's five-day absence. He left the team Thursday after James Dungy was found dead. A preliminary autopsy report indicated he took his own life.
The death has pushed football into a secondary role for Indy, which spent much of the past two months fielding questions about the possibility of becoming the second NFL team to complete a perfect season. Their quest ended at 13-0 when they lost 26-17 to San Diego on Dec. 18. Four days later, Dungy returned to Tampa.
Caldwell, who has never been an NFL head coach, has changed little.
He treated Saturday's game as an exhibition, benching about half the defensive starters, Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison and injured right tackle Ryan Diem. He replaced other prominent players, such as two-time MVP Peyton Manning and receiver Reggie Wayne, after two series. That was Dungy's plan.
On the long flight home, Caldwell described the mood as somber and quiet.
"That's what you would expect," Caldwell said. "It was rather quiet. I think there were a lot of people, like myself, who wanted to reminisce and reflect, and it was time for reflection."
On Monday, Colts coaches went back to work.
Again, Caldwell said, Indianapolis intends to treat this week's regular-season finale against Arizona as a preseason game although he did not give any injury updates.
The one big change comes Tuesday morning. About 200 Colts players, coaches and team officials are expected to fly to Tampa on the team plane for James Dungy's funeral.
The trip is not mandatory but Caldwell believes most players will attend. He has also been passing along condolences to Dungy's family from others, including all of the Seahawks coaches and NFL referees at Saturday's game.
"There certainly will be a large group going down," Caldwell said. "I think he [Dungy] certainly has had a feel for the number of people across the country who respect him and support him."
Tuesday's trip has forced Colts coaches to make some personal adjustments. Typically, Caldwell said coaches would review film and plot first-down scenarios on Monday and use Tuesday to install a game plan. With the compressed week, though, coaches were doing both Monday.
But given the circumstances, nobody was complaining.
"The focus should not be on me because what I have to do certainly is not near as difficult as what Tony and Lauren are going through," Caldwell said. "He's a very well organized individual and he looks ahead quite often and puts things in place for us to follow and that's basically all we have to do."
Caldwell said he is prepared to run the team as long as necessary.
"Our owner, Mr. [Jim] Irsay, and our president, Mr. [Bill] Polian have given him as much time as he needs, and that's up to him," Caldwell said. "I talked to him today and he's doing as well as can be expected."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press