A few players saw Tony Dungy momentarily around the Colts headquarters early Thursday morning, but were uncertain if he was truly back to work or just stopping in. As he circulated around the building, stopping to give hugs of thanks to his players for their support and love, it became apparent he was back.
At 9 o'clock, interim head coach Jim Caldwell pulled the team together for a brief meeting before moving on with their scheduled routine. And at that point it became official to everyone in the room that their leader was back. Dungy entered the room and spoke to his team for a less than five minutes before they got rolling with their scheduled activities.
"When he walked through the door, he came in and everybody's eyes lit up," Montae Reagor told John Oehser at Colts.com.
"Just to see his face was joyous," said wide receiver Troy Walters.
Dungy reportedly told the players that returning to work would help him get through the difficult period he's been facing since the death of his oldest son, James a week ago.
"He loves these guys and as he's fond of saying, 'We do what we do,'" said Colts President Polian. "And this is what he does."
Punter Hunter Smith agreed, pointing out that the Colts have become an extension of Dungy's family life.
"There's something special here on this team, the family aspect," he said. "As big of a tragedy as this is, it's going to strengthen those family bonds."
Reagor was stunned by Dungy's quick return, yet clearly happy about it. But he knows that the Colts, through their unique relationship with their coach, can help him with the healing process.
"We're going to keep him in our prayers, because it's still a tough situation he's bouncing back from," he said.
"He's like our father. We respect him that way. We respect him as a man, as a coach and as a father figure."
Linebacker Gary Brackett, who has dealt with his own loss of immediate family members in recent years, summed it all up very well.
"You honor the dead by the way you chose to live your life after they're gone," said Brackett. "He needs football right now and we need him, too."
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