Dungy 'surprised' Manning, Colts parted ways

Dungy 'surprised' Manning, Colts parted ways

Published Apr. 3, 2012 7:01 p.m. ET

EDINA, Minn. — Count former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy among those who thought Peyton Manning would never part ways with the team that drafted him.

In one of the highest-profile releases in NFL history, the Colts said goodbye to their four-time MVP quarterback this offseason. Manning, who missed all of last season after neck surgery, then was courted by several teams in a highly publicized free agent tour before signing with the Denver Broncos.

Dungy and Manning were together with the Colts for seven seasons, making the playoffs each year and winning the 2006 Super Bowl. Dungy retired from the NFL two years later, and Manning has moved on this offseason, expecting to be replaced by presumptive No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck.

The unlikely scenario was one Dungy could have never imagined when he left Indianapolis.

"I have to tell you I was surprised," Dungy said, speaking at an Athletes in Action event Tuesday in Minnesota. "Three years ago, or when I was coaching there, you could have never told me Peyton Manning would ever be in another uniform. I don't think he ever envisioned that. I know (owner) Jim Irsay didn't, certainly none of us that had ever worked there.

"But things don't always stay the same. It is going to be different. I'm sure Denver is excited about it. People in Indianapolis are still getting used to the idea that he's not going to be there. But it was definitely a shock to me."

Dungy still keeps in touch with his longtime quarterback and said the two talked recently and that Manning said he is feeling good after extensive rehabilitation on his surgically repaired neck. Manning, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 draft, is third all-time in passing yards (54,828) and passing touchdowns (399) and has the sixth-best quarterback rating (94.9) in NFL history.

If Manning, 36, is healthy, Dungy believes the Broncos got the franchise quarterback they've searched for since John Elway retired after the 1998 season.

"He'll do fine," Dungy said. "Peyton is a guy that is very driven. I've talked to him a couple of times in the past month. He feels good health-wise. He feels like the doctors have given him every OK. I think if he has his health, he's going to play great."

Follow Brian Hall on Twitter