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Fennelly: Tony Dungy: Nothing illegal about Colts stealing signs

Tony Dungy looks on from the sidelines during a game between the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengalsin 2005 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. [Getty Images]

Tony Dungy looks on from the sidelines during a game between the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengalsin 2005 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. [Getty Images]

Tony Dungy is such a newsmaker.

This just in: He stole signs.

But did he cheat?

The Pro Football Hall of Fame coach laughed.

"People, not just us, everybody has stolen signs."

And quite legally, Dungy pointed out. It wasn't cheating.

"It has no connotation of illegality," Dungy said.

This all started the other day, when new Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson said that some people will put an asterisk next to the Super Bowl champion Patriots' accomplishments because of SpyGate. Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders, who works with Tomlinson at the NFL Network, returned serve.

"Those same critics, did they say anything about the wins the Indianapolis Colts have?" Sanders said. "You want to talk about that, too. Because they were getting everybody's signals."

Belichick and Dungy, together at last.

So did Tony Dungy cheat?

"People think stealing signs is cheating. I guess it connotes something wrong," Dungy said. "But it's not illegal, at least in how you normally do it, try to pick up on something. That's why you change signals. That's why you change audibles. People will steal your signs. Sure, it's fair. Absolutely.

"Let me start with Deion, and he says we're stealing signs. I guess I'm going to take it back to baseball terms, that the runner on second base steals signs or the person sitting in the dugout watches the third base coach all day and figures out what the bunt sign is.

"Stealing signs? That's just a term for looking at the other team and figuring out what they're doing. Deion, if he played corner, he stole signs, he's listening for the other team's audibles, looking at Peyton Manning's hand signals to Reggie Wayne. Everybody in any sport does that.

"It has no connotation of illegality. Did we steal signs if we could? Yes. Did we listen to the other team's audibles and try to figure out what they mean? Yes. Along with every other person who ever played the game."

Which brings us back to the Patriots, and SpyGate, the allegations, the docked draft pick, all of it.

What's the difference between what they did and other teams did?.

"The Patriots' problem had nothing to do with stealing signals," Dungy said. "Their problem and why they were fined a draft choice is they were illegally taping things, whatever they were videotaping. You can't videotape another team's bench from where they were shooting it.

"The distinction is the rule book, what you can do and what you can't do. And when the rule book says you can't videotape from certain places on the field and you can't videotape a team's bench area. When you do that, that's a violation. It's not semantics. It was against the rules.

Dungy thinks Sanders brought up Dungy's name to jolt everyone.

"I think Deion said that for kind of shock value. Every team in America, including his team, including him, would do the same thing and did the same thing."

Dungy said, "Bruce Arians was Peyton's quarterback coach and he went to Pittsburgh. We expect him to tell them the signals. He's going to say here are what some of their hand signals are, and if you can take advantage, great. That's fine. It's up to us. First play of the game, Peyton gave what used to be the run signal, and Ike Taylor thinks it's a run, and we have an 82-yard touchdown pass.

"Our defensive linemen used to take the VHS of the games home and watch and listen to the whole game, and every now and again they would come back with something. Hey, 'Monday' means the snap count is on one. Now you can get off on the ball a little quicker. One tip like that on one play can make a difference.

"Look at any college game. Whenever a team is in the spread offense or whatever, what do you see on the sideline? You see two or three backup quarterbacks and two or three assistant coaches signaling at the same time and two or three guys holding up posters and cards. Why are they doing that? Because someone is on the other sideline, trying to figure out the signals. So one of then is giving the live signal and six or seven others are giving fake signals so the other guys won't figure it out. There's no rule against that. It isn't stealing in any illegal sense. That's the differences: rules weren't broken."

Fennelly: Tony Dungy: Nothing illegal about Colts stealing signs 02/10/17 [Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2017 4:40pm]
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