On Tuesday morning, Ravens coach John Harbaugh spoke about the cheating culture of the NFL during a radio appearance. With the Saints having recently been roasted for running a bounty program, the topic is still fresh on everyone’s minds. Naturally, you can’t talk about cheating in football without Spygate coming up. Despite the fact that Harbaugh and Bill Belichick are relatively close, the Ravens coach decided to remind listeners that the Patriots’ Super Bowl rings have baggage attached to them.
“You know, the funny thing about that is in the end everything is brought before the light of day,” Harbaugh said during an interview with 98 Rock in Baltimore. “Even the thing in New England — no matter whether those things had any impact on whether they won their championships or not, they’ve got asterisks now. They’ve been stained. So to me it’s never worth it. Yeah, you’ve got to figure out ways to use the rules to your advantage and figure out ways to make the most of everything. …
“That’s what success is in this world. You’ve got to find ways to do things better than somebody else. But if you’re cheating, in the end you’re going to get discredited. It’s just not worth it.”
Some will say Harbaugh is simply stating a fact about the way Belichick’s legacy is viewed while others will argue that he is taking a shot at an AFC rival. As Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network pointed out, Belichick called Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to recommend Harbaugh back when Baltimore hired him.
When pressed about it, Harbaugh will likely say he was simply speaking the truth about how people like this former receiver feel rather than trying to downplay what the Patriots have done. The interesting thing is that the discussion was clearly brought up in the wake of the Saints bounties, and Harbaugh chose to talk about the Patriots’ stains rather than the Saints’ 2009 championship. Whatever the case, we should all start preparing ourselves for extensive coverage of “the handshake” when Baltimore and New England square off next season.
UPDATE: Harbaugh has already issued a statement in response to the backlash that has come from what he said. Here’s the statement in its entirety, courtesy of Mike Reiss at ESPNBoston.com:
“While on the 98 Rock show this morning to talk about the run to honor O.J. Brigance and raise funds for ALS research, I answered a question about playing within the rules and referred to the perception that the Super Bowl championships won by the Patriots and Saints have a stain. My reference was to the perception out there that came as the result of the league’s actions.
“I could have been more clear that I was referring to those viewpoints. I totally believe that the Patriot and Saint coaches and players earned those championships. Bill (Belichick) and Sean (Payton) both know that.
“There has been some distortion about what I said.
“The original tweet indicated I pointed the finger at Bill Belichick and mentioned Bill’s name. I did not. I have so much respect for Coach Belichick and the job he does and has accomplished in his Hall of Fame career. I called him to remind him of my respect for him. I also reached out to Tedy Bruschi, who rightfully defended those Patriot players and coaches on ESPN, to tell him that I agree with him that the Patriots earned every victory.”
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