Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh backed away from comments on Tuesday in which he said the Patriots could not avoid the black mark on their legacy caused by the Spygate scandal.
Harbaugh said he was originally speaking about the “perception out there” that came from the NFL punishments handed down to the Patriots in 2007 and to the New Orleans Saints this year for their bounty infractions. He added that there was “some distortion” of his comments.
“I could have been more clear that I was referring to those viewpoints,” Harbaugh said. “I totally believe that the Patriot and Saint coaches and players earned those championships. Bill (Belichick) and Sean (Payton) both know that.”
Harbaugh originally brought the specter of Spygate back into focus on Tuesday while discussing the Saints’ bounty scandal with a Maryland radio station. He said the Patriots’ championships were “stained” and have “asterisks” because of the Spygate scandal.
The host on radio station 98Rock was asking Harbaugh about cheating and playing dirty, in the context of the punishments doled out to the Saints this year, and mentioned how his brother Jim (the head coach of the 49ers) and their father Jack (a former college coach) are “old-school football guys” who believe in “hit hard, hit right.” Isn’t there a part of Harbaugh that thinks “if a guy can get away with it...” they should go for it in pursuit of wins, he was asked.
Harbaugh said on the radio show that in the end, cheating isn’t worth it because of the scandal it brings.
“Even the thing in New England,” Harbaugh said, “and the thing ... no matter whether those things had any impact on whether they won their championships or not, they got asterisks now. It’s been stained. So to me it’s never worth it.
“In the end, if you’re cheating, you’re going to get discredited. It’s just not worth it.”
Harbaugh has acknowledged in the past that Bill Belichick recommended him to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti before he was hired in 2008.
In his clarification, Harbaugh said he reached out to Belichick on Tuesday.
“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,” he said.
The Patriots have not commented on Harbaugh’s words.
New England is scheduled to play at Baltimore on Sept. 23, in a rematch of the teams’ meeting in the AFC title game last season.