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Dungy wants players to take a break from football

Thursday, September 25, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Dungy sent his players home Thursday with a familiar message.

Try taking a break from football. He instructed Colts players to relax and spend time with their families, offering a compelling story to reinforce his point.

"I just talked to the guys about Matt Bryant, who was with us for one game a couple of years ago," Dungy said. "He had a 3-month-old boy that didn't wake up. So I urged our guys to take this time to be around the people you love. This is what the break is all about."

Bryant's infant son died Wednesday. The Tampa Bay kicker was signed by the Colts in 2004 when the Colts needed a kickoff specialist and played one game with the Colts before being released.

In past years, players have opted to spend their one free weekend during the season with wives, children or visiting parents. Dungy often goes fishing although he'll likely spend Friday night watching his son, Eric, play for his high school team in Florida.

But even with a 1-2 record and a second September loss, something Indianapolis hadn't endured since 1998, Dungy didn't change the script. He thinks it's more beneficial for players to rejuvenate themselves by breaking out of the usual day-to-day rut, even though this bye week is early.

"I don't think it (the record) is part of it," Dungy said. "I always tell them to enjoy these three days because you don't get these very often during the season."

At practice this week, Dungy made corrections and adjustments, gave injured players extra rest and tried to get the newest players more adept in systems they've been learning on the fly.

Two players who could benefit greatly from the bye week are defensive tackles Daniel Muir and LaJuan Ramsay, who both joined the Colts earlier this month. Muir was claimed off waivers after Green Bay released him during final cuts, while Ramsay signed after Indy released starting defensive tackle Ed Johnson.

Both have been scrambling to get acclimated, and Dungy hopes they can return next week with a better understanding of how they can help reinforce a run defense that has allowed four 100-yard rushers this season.

"They'll be better for us when we get back," Dungy said. "This bye week was important for them because we were able to strip away not looking at another team and focus on what we do."

Dungy said linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, who hasn't practiced since tearing a pectoral muscle while weightlifting in July, is eager to return, too. Hagler is on the physically unable to perform list and can't be activated until mid-October.

But most of all, Dungy wants his players to simply get away, refresh themselves and return with a new perspective.

"I think it will be good for us," Dungy said.



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