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Dungy believes Peyton will stay with Colts

By John Powers
Globe Staff / February 1, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS - Though many Colts fans seem resigned to losing Peyton Manning during the offseason, former coach Tony Dungy predicts that the future Hall of Fame quarterback will stay put.

“Personally I don’t see Peyton playing for another team in another jersey,’’ said Dungy, now an NBC analyst. “I don’t think [owner] Jim [Irsay] wants that, I don’t think Peyton wants that. In my opinion, I think he’s going to play here if he’s physically able to play.’’

Manning, who missed the season after undergoing neck surgery, said his rehab is proceeding well and that he threw passes to Tony Gonzalez, Blair White, and others yesterday.

“I’m continuing to work hard, I’ve continued to make progress, and the doctors are encouraged and that’s encouraging to me,’’ he said.

While some observers believe that Irsay will let the four-time league MVP become a free agent rather than pay a $28 million bonus to a performer whose physical soundness is uncertain, Dungy thinks money isn’t the central issue.

“It’s a medical issue,’’ he said. “I’ve talked to Jim, and Jim is not worried about the bonus money, not worried about finding ways to do it.

“If Peyton’s healthy enough, that’s his quarterback. There’s a special bond there that goes even beyond owner and quarterback.’’

The controversy over Manning’s status comes at a particularly awkward time since his younger brother will be playing for his second championship ring here Sunday.

“I would think [Peyton] is very uncomfortable, especially with the Giants being here and Eli,’’ said Dungy. “When you get to the Super Bowl, even though it’s the second one for the Giants, you want the focus to be on that achievement.

“I know he would much rather have the focus on Eli and what they’ve done to get here, and unfortunately that’s not going to happen.’’

Manning, who plans to have dinner with Irsay and other NFL people Sunday, said, “Jim and I would talk at the right time.’’

The face of the franchise has worn a Colts jersey ever since he was drafted first overall in 1998, and hadn’t missed a game until this season.

“We’ve had a lot of talks over the years, Peyton and I, about history, and he’s a historian,’’ said Dungy. “I know how much it means to him to start and finish in one place.’’

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.

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