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Tony Dungy sets the record straight: Stealing signals is not cheating

The NFL Network is still talking about the Super Bowl because, well, it's the NFL Network. There's only so much pre-Combine content to be mined.

As analyst and Hall of Fame inductee LaDanian Tomlinson said the Patriots' current dynasty would be marred by the Pats' past cheating scandals, Deion Sanders broke in to say the Peyton Manning Colts cheated, too, by stealing other teams' signals.

“Those same critics, did they say anything about the wins that the Indianapolis Colts had? You want to talk about that too? Because they were getting everybody’s signals,” Sanders said, via PFT. “Come on, you don’t walk up to the line and look over here and the man on the sideline giving you the defense that they’ve stolen the plays of. We all knew. L.T. knew. Everybody in the NFL knew. We just didn’t let the fans know. That was real and that was happening in Indy.”

Tony Dungy was asked about those comments on PFT Live and said, essentially: Yeah, we stole signals and so did everyone else. It's football.

“I think we have to go back to what is cheating,” Dungy said. “People accusing us of cheating? I don’t think that’s the case. Stealing signals? You can go back to the 1800s in baseball, you can go anywhere there were signals done, and people were looking and watching and trying to get signals. Back in the early days of football the quarterbacks called the plays and the middle linebackers called the defenses and there was no signaling. When coaches decided they wanted to call plays you had to find ways to get the information in and there were people watching. My coach, Chuck Noll, was a messenger guard for Paul Brown in the ’50s because Paul Brown didn’t want to have to signal because people are going to watch them. So that’s what happens and it’s been done legally for years.

“I remember in 1991, I was an assistant coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. Steve DeBerg was our quarterback. He had played seven or eight years earlier for the 49ers. We were playing the 49ers and they hadn’t changed their signals at all. Steve DeBerg called every play for us on the defensive sideline because Joe Montana and Bill Walsh hadn’t changed the signals since they’d been there. They beat us 28-14. We knew every play and they beat us. So that’s been part of football."

Filming opponents' sidelines, as the Patriots were caught doing in the 2007 Spygate scandal, is against NFL rules. But intercepting another team's signals during a game is not.

“Deion, I’m sure on every scouting report that he ever got, the first thing that’s on there on the defensive scouting reports, who is the live signal caller, who signals the personnel groups in. And that’s what happened. And you looked over there because you wanted to know as a defensive player: Is it going to be three wide receivers? Is it going to be two tight ends? Who’s in the game? There’s a person over there signaling and Deion Sanders and every other defensive player would look at the offensive sideline to get that signal. So that is football. And I’m not sure what Deion is referring to, really.”

Neither am I, Coach. Neither am I.