Deion Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson were having an NFL Network chat about the Patriots’ legacy after the Super Bowl on Sunday night, and Tomlinson suggested that some people will put an asterisk next to New England’s name because of Spygate. In response, Sanders thought it would be the perfect time to accuse the Indianapolis Colts of cheating.
“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. “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.”
Sanders presented zero evidence of this and didn’t even say which Colts teams were stealing signals, but he’s had harsh words for Peyton Manning in the past because of his big-game failures.
Appearing Wednesday morning on “Pro Football Talk Live” with Mike Florio, former Colts coach Tony Dungy said that if Sanders was accusing Indianapolis of merely paying attention to opposing teams’ signals then they were guilty as charged, along with every single other NFL team in league history.
“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.”
Dungy brought up a few instances in which his players helped decipher signals when playing their former teams. Steve DeBerg, for instance, was the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback during a 1991 game against the San Francisco 49ers, his former team. Dungy, then Kansas City’s defensive backs coach, said DeBerg gave the Chiefs’ defense every one of the 49ers’ signals because they hadn’t been changed in some time.
During their chat, Florio delineated between what’s considered legal signal-stealing — basically, when you use your eyes to watch the other team’s signals — and illegal signal-stealing, like when the Patriots filmed the Jets’ defensive signals from an unauthorized location on the field during a 2007 game.
“If you signal, there are people who are gonna watch you signal,” Dungy said. “Everybody has done that for years and years and years. …
“I hope Deion is not saying we did something illegally.”