Ravens coach John Harbaugh: Patriots championships 'stained' by cheating

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Harbaugh thinks some of Belichick's success is "stained." (Getty Images)

Over the past few years, we've had some serious -Gate action in the NFL. Spies and bounties oh my. Or something. Anyway, John Harbaugh went on a radio appearance on Tuesday morning and was asked about cheaters and he decided to point out that the Patriots Super Bowl championships are "stained" and have "asterisks now."

Harbaugh said this on 98 Rock in Baltimore and it's absolutely a #shotsfired moment between the Ravens and the Patriots.

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"The funny thing about that is in the end everything is brought before the light of day when it's all said and done," Harbaugh said. "So what happens is, even the thing in New England, no matter whether those things had any impact on their championships or not, they've got asterisks now. They've been stained."

"If you're cheating, in the end, you're going to get discredited."

Harbaugh also said he's actually known at certain times that he knew teams were cheating but declined to mention specific instances, because he was worried that it would result in a ton of publicity and questions about when those times were.

Bad news, coach: using the word "stained" when describing Patriots championships is going to give you more publicity than you ever wanted.

And listening to Harbaugh, it sounds as if he's simply saying that cheating means success becomes stained at any level in football. But his decision to use Bill Belichick -- a man who recommended him for the Ravens job -- as an example in breaking down cheaters in football and the asterisks that accompany titles probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world to do.

The result of Harbaugh's comments and the ensuing public discussion (with a nice little splash of outrage as well) was predictable: Harbaugh issued a statement, via Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, clarifying his remarks and alerting the world that he called Belichick to apologize.

“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," Harbaugh said in the statement. "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."

As we noted above, it seemed more likely that Harbaugh was simply discussing the fact that because of the scandals that surrounded those two teams, people were more likely to place doubt on their titles. And, of course, he thinks what he said was taken out of context to a degree, and to make up for it, he called Belichick and Tedy Bruschi, a member of those Patriots teams who appeared on "SportsCenter" Tuesday to refute Harbaugh's comments.

“There has been some distortion about what I said," Harbaugh said in his statement. "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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