"There are a lot of things that can be a distraction to a modern athlete's neck," said Dungy, who has written self-help books and mentored Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and others since stepping away from coaching. "But I find that if a neck just stays looking ahead at the Lord, it doesn't need to twist or turn, so it will never get hurt. Jesus saves necks."
Manning underwent offseason neck surgery on May 23rd, but his rehab and arm strength have plateaued and it is expected that he will miss the Colts' season opener, if not more games, and end his consecutive starts streak at 208.
"It's been frustrating, obviously," said Manning. "But I do feel like I'm getting closer to being 100-percent again. I just need rehab and rest. Unfortunately, it's been tough to do either the last few days with Tony always appearing out of nowhere to try to talk to my neck or pray for my neck. He was a pretty good coach, I guess, but he's super weird."
Dungy says most of his mentoring subjects initially reject his help.
"I remember I kept going to Michael Vick's prison every day for 8 months until he gave in," said Dungy. "He said: 'Look, I give up, you naughty word, naughty word, mother-naughty word, crazy-eyed, naughty word freak. I'll listen to you if you come here once a month instead of every day.' And so I did. And I cured him of his wickedness. Now we're the best of friends although not the kind of friends who pick up their phone when I call, apparently."
Dungy believes Manning's neck needs him now more than ever.
"I never talked much to Peyton's neck when I was the head coach," he said. "I mainly talked to his face part. But I felt the neck was avoiding me. And I knew that one day God would put the neck through a trial to bring it closer to goodness and truth."
Manning says he still hopes to play Week 1.
"I just need to get that restraining order against Tony settled first," he said. "Those things can take some time. Most people, judges included, don't realize how strange that guy is."