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Colts try turningfocus to football

Colts try turningfocus to football

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INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Colts got back to concentrating on football Friday.

Players laughed, joked and seemed more vibrant as they finished their last practice before heading to Seattle - a major change from Thursday's near silence after they received word of the apparent suicide of coach Tony Dungy's son.

The reminders, though, were everywhere.

Assistant head coach Jim Caldwell again ran practice while Tony Dungy stayed in Tampa, Fla. In the team's pavilion, players, coaches and Colts officials attended a morning memorial service.

No decision has yet been made on what, if anything, the Colts will wear or do today to honor 18-year-old James Dungy, whose girlfriend found him unresponsive in a Florida apartment Thursday. But at least football was again part of the discussion.

"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."

A preliminary autopsy report Friday indicated the teen took his own life, but the exact cause of death won't be released until a toxicology examination is finished in four to six weeks, the Hillsborough County medical examiner said.

For the Colts, whose 13-1 record is the NFL's best, this tumultuous week has easily been its most challenging.

The daily tests included Sunday's loss to San Diego, their first of the season followed by Monday's announcement from team president Bill Polian that two-time MVP Peyton Manning had a swollen knee, something the quarterback later denied.

Then came the overshadowing of having seven players picked to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday when the NFL mistakenly listed left tackle Tarik Glenn on the roster, then retracted his name.

Thursday's news shoved aside the other story lines. Dungy immediately flew to Tampa, leaving behind 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.

Suddenly, life had trumped football.

But when the Colts returned to work Friday, they seemed to honor their coach's advice by getting back to business.

"They're professionals, when they take the field, they want to win," Caldwell said. "So it's a matter of professional pride, and also our head coach expects us to go out and play hard and play well."

Caldwell seemed relieved to be answering questions about the Colts' next game.

He announced three starters - record-setting receiver Marvin Harrison, Pro Bowl linebacker Cato June and starting right tackle Ryan Diem - would not travel to Seattle.

Harrison broke a bone in his right hand and did not practice all week, although Dungy had said Harrison could play through the injury. June has been spent the past two months dealing with a sports hernia, a sore knee and a sore ankle. Diem is expected to miss the final two regular-season games with a sprained ligament in his left knee and hopes to return for Indy's first playoff game Jan. 14 or 15.

Also expected to sit are defensive linemen Corey Simon and Robert Mathis, who both have foot injuries. Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders (back) and defensive tackle Montae Reagor (knee) may take Saturday off, too.

And Manning, who has never missed a start in his eight NFL seasons, may not play much.

"I'm excited, it's about time," backup quarterback Jim Sorgi said Monday. "I've been ready to play all year. I'm excited about getting some time and some significant time."

Still, Dungy's situation remains front and center at the Colts complex.

On Thursday, the locker room was hushed and players quietly walked off the practice field. On Friday, there was more pep but things seemed to be only somewhat back to normal.

"It puts things in perspective," Glenn said Thursday. "Football is really just a little piece of life, especially when you're talking about a child. It's rough to practice and stay focused, but Jim Caldwell talked to him (Dungy), and he wants us to do well."

Some players think Saturday's game will provide an outlet for their emotions.

Receiver Brandon Stokley, whose infant son was seriously ill with bacterial meningitis the week of the AFC Championship game, acknowledged Thursday that playing football helped give him a respite.

"The tough part is when you're sitting around thinking about it," he said.

Players were not available for interviews Friday. But as the Colts continue to deal with their biggest challenge, they seemed more relaxed, more jovial and more like themselves at practice.

If they can play like that Saturday, they believe it will be the biggest tribute they can give Dungy.

"I had the opportunity to speak with him, and he's there helping his family," Caldwell said. "He didn't give me any directions, he just told us to go forward and do the things we normally do - play hard and play well."


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