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Former Colts coach Tony Dungy is famous for being mild-mannered. There was one thing, though, that he wouldn't stand for.
Players on his teams better not fight.
"Practices had to be competitive, but they couldn’t be combative, that we were teammates helping each other get better," he said in Super Bowl Blueprints: Hall of Famers Reveal the Keys to Football's Greatest Dynasties. "You got better by competing, but you couldn’t build a great team with animosity and fights. You couldn’t be a great team if you didn’t keep your composure. You hear a lot of people say, 'Oh, well, fights happen in training camp, it’s part of football, you just get through it.' With Coach (Chuck) Noll, absolutely not. He didn’t allow it. We didn’t have them. That’s how I got trained."
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From his days as Tamp Bay's head coach, he got his point across quickly.
"'You can fight, but if you do, you’re going to get the same penalties that you would if you fight in a game: a $10,000 fine and you’re kicked out. So, if I were you, if you want to fight someone, wait until after practice. Go back in the alley where I can’t see it and you can settle it then. But if you fight during practice, you’re going to get kicked out of practice and I’m going to fine you as much as the league will allow me to.'"
Dungy wrote that there was only one fight during his time in Indianapolis.
"I gave the players the same speech when I got to Indy," he said. "We had a fight take place in practice, I stopped, I explained things, I told them why we couldn’t do it, and I sent both the guys to the locker room. I don’t think we fined them, but the message came across, and I don’t think we ever had another fight there."
Dwight Freeney recalled a Colts practice that got particularly intense.
"One day in practice, I was watching a special-teams period from the sidelines," he said. "There was a defensive back running down the field and he got into it with a linebacker. It was a football fight. It wasn’t like anybody was throwing any serious punches. It was a whole big wrestling thing, which was a lot for us because we didn’t do any of that stuff during practice. Tony just went crazy. Now, his crazy was saying, “What are you guys doing? We don’t do that here.” That was all it was. There was no cursing, none of that. For anyone else, it was nothing. For Tony, that was losing his cool. Sure enough, the next day, the linebacker was gone. You couldn’t help but think, 'Yeah, Tony was mad, but he wasn’t as mad as you think for a guy to be gone the next day.'"
There was a particular way Colts players would know Dungy was upset with them during a game.
"That headset would come off, his ears would start to turn a little red," Freeney said. "And I’d say, 'Uh-oh, Tony’s about to raise up a decibel here.' It was just one decibel, but when he was upset, we all knew it."
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Tony Dungy's rule about fighting came with steep price