Ravens head coach John Harbaugh did his best verbal backpedal Tuesday afternoon, releasing a statement through the team in an attempt to clarify comments he made earlier in the day in which he referred to "stained" championships in New England.
The reference, of course, was to the Super Bowl wins under the Bill Belichick regime which was caught in 2007 videotaping the New York Jets' sideline.
Asked during an interview on 98 Rock -- Harbaugh was appearing for an interview to discuss the upcoming run to honor O.J. Brigance and raise funds for ALS research -- about cheating in the NFL, Harbaugh said cheaters lose credit.
"The funny thing about that is ... in the end, everything is brought before the light of day when it's all said and done. Even the thing in New England -- no matter whether those things had any impact on whether they won any of their championships or not, they've got asterisks now. They've been stained," Harbaugh said. "So to me, it's never worth it. I mean, you've got to figure out ways to use the rules to your advantage, and figure out ways to make the most of everything. We've got new work rules (CBA) about what he can and can't do with our players, and we're going to make the most of it. What we're finding out is that ... man, we can do something even better than we did before, because these rules make us focus on some things we didn't do before. 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.
The comments, some not in context and parsed without chronology in mind, became hot coals on Twitter and other media and blog sites.
By 1 p.m. ET, Harbaugh and the Ravens released a statement intended to give his talk radio response proper context.
"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.
On the air for ESPN's SportsCenter Tuesday morning, former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi -- who played for the Patriots in 2007 when the Spygate drama unfolded -- said Harbaugh had "a lot to learn about mutual respect." Bruschi said Belichick called the Ravens to endorse Harbaugh, then considered a long shot as the special teams coordinator of the Eagles, when Brian Billick was fired in 2007, when Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was considered the frontrunner.
"There has been some distortion about what I said," Harbaugh said in the 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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