Tony Dungy to Deion Sanders: Colts never cheated

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Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts directs play against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on August 16, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Tony Dungy and Deion Sanders each have spots in Canton, Ohio, but the Pro Football Hall of Famers are miles apart when it comes to one issue.

Were Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts cheaters?

Sanders broached the subject Sunday night on NFL Network in a discussion with LaDainian Tomlinson, the newest member of the Hall of Fame. Tomlinson mentioned an asterisk should be affixed to New England in the record books because of Spygate, an incident in 2007 when the NFL determined the Patriots were guilty of illegally videotaping signals of the New York Jets.

That prompted Sanders to point an accusing finger at the Colts.

“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,’’ the NFL Network analyst 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 . . . Everybody in the NFL knew. We just didn’t let the fans know. That was real and that was happening in Indy.’’

Dungy didn’t disagree with Sanders’ assertion of the Colts’ stealing signals, but took issue with the description of the allegation. He addressed the issue Wednesday during an appearance on “Pro Football Talk Live.’’

“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.’’

Dungy became the winningest coach in Colts history (92-33) during his seven-year stint (2002-08). The team won at least 10 games and reached the playoffs each season, and won Super Bowl XLI.

Peyton Manning directed one of the NFL’s most productive offenses during that stretch, and always spent the pre-snap seconds by sizing up the defense and changing plays and blocking schemes when necessary.

Stealing an opposing team’s signals, according to Dungy, has “been part of football.’’

“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,’’ Dungy said. “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.

“That’s all part of the game, but doing it legally and illegally, that’s the difference. I hope Deion is not saying we did something illegally. Of course we got signals when we had an opportunity to do that, and so did Deion.’’

Former Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett also took exception with Sanders’ accusation.

“We never cheated we worked harder than everyone else and studied an enormous amount of film,’’ Brackett wrote on his Twitter account. “(Then) during the game we played the tendencies.’’

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