Dungy still not hinting about future; decision expected Monday

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Dungy spent the past week talking with his family, some close friends and trusted coaches in his annual end-of-season custom.

He's still not hinting about his future plans with the Indianapolis Colts.

Dungy, the first black coach to win a Super Bowl, is pondering retirement for a third straight year. As usual, his decision centers on whether he can remain a devoted husband and father while also remaining a devoted coach.

Colts owner Jim Irsay said he doesn't yet know Dungy's decision. Irsay said Sunday evening that he might not hear from Dungy until late into the night or early Monday, although he would like to think his head coach is going to come back for next season.

Dungy plans to make an announcement Monday, letting the emotions subside from last week's surprising AFC playoff loss to San Diego but not creating a long-playing soap opera. He has not returned several messages left for him by The Associated Press in recent days.

Members of Dungy's inner circle understand how difficult the last week has been for him.

"I'm sure it's weighing heavy on him," said Jeffrey Singletary, the pastor at Central Tampa Baptist Church in Florida and a close friend of Dungy's. "He's not someone who says one thing and means something else, so I'm sure he's really wrestling and grappling with the decision, and I don't know what he'll do."

Apparently, the Colts don't know just yet, either. But team officials didn't want to wait for Dungy to announce his decision before making contingency plans.

On Thursday, Irsay told reporters during a trip to New York that Jim Caldwell, the Colts' assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach, would eventually replace Dungy. Team president Bill Polian said in a radio interview Friday the team was prepared to make that transition immediately or next season.

The more pressing question is what will play into Dungy's decision.

Dungy has previously said he does not intend to be an NFL "lifer" and that he planned to retire by age 50. He's now 52.

The biggest factor will be his family, which recently moved back to Tampa, Fla. Dungy's son, Eric, a high school sophomore, has begun taking classes at a high school in the family's adopted hometown, and Dungy has frequently told players and reporters that family comes first.

Irsay has proposed a plan that would give Dungy a chance to spend more time with his family, including Friday night trips to Tampa for his son's football games. Polian also said last week that if Dungy does return, Caldwell would have more coaching responsibilities during the transition.

Will it be enough to persuade Dungy to come back for a seventh season with the Colts?

"It can be done. My dad did that for a long time when I was in high school and I did that for a time, too, so it can be done," Dungy said last week. "The big thing is I want to make sure I give enough to this team and if I can do that, I'll be back."

Colts players understand Dungy's dilemma.

While most spent their final day in the locker room discussing their future plans, the questions surrounding Dungy were at the top of the list. All were hoping for a return.

"I'm not sure what he'll do," safety Antoine Bethea said. "Whatever he feels comfortable doing, is what he will do. If he comes back, I'm pretty sure everybody will be happy."

Clearly, though, it's a difficult choice.

Singletary, who helped Dungy's family cope with the death of their 18-year-old son, James, in December 2005, has offered his support again.

But he has no idea yet of Dungy's plans.

"I think he's said publicly that (after James Dungy's death) going back to work was very therapeutic for him," Singletary said. "His family needed some time to heal and figure out what God was calling him to do. I think this will be the same way. He's not going to do something knee-jerk and he doesn't say 'oops.' He doesn't look back and he has a certain peace about him."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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