New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has never hid his respect for the Ravens and some of the organization’s top decision markers. So, it was hardly surprising that in his final news conference before Sunday’s game, he spent a good part of it showering the Ravens with praise.
He saved some of his kindest words for Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. The two worked together in Cleveland and have maintained a friendship. Belichick called him a “pretty special person, special football person, too.
“He’s been very complimentary about his comments of what he learned from me, but I think I probably learned more from him than he learned from me,” Belichick said. “He’s a very astute, sometimes quiet kind of guy, but the wheels are always turning, he’s taking a lot in. When he speaks, you listen because you respect him and you know that he’s just not saying things to hear himself talk. He’s saying them because he’s given it a lot of thought and he has a very important observation or opinion to share. He’s had a great career. I can’t think of many people that did what he did as a player and then in his current position and all the other things along the way – as a scout, as an assistant coach and so forth.”
When the Ravens fired Brian Billick after the 2007 season, Belichick recommended Harbaugh, then an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
Asked Friday about his relationship with Harbaugh, Belichick said, “It would be a lot better if we didn’t have to play each other every year. I have a lot of respect for John. John’s another guy that kind of started like I did – started as a special teams coach. As he and I have talked about, I think that’s a great way to learn the game of football. ... John, obviously, had a great background – football family. He grew up with it, as I did. He’s really paid his dues. He’s been a good coach in this league, whether it was on special teams or defense or obviously as a head coach.”
Belichick compared his relationship with Harbaugh to the one he used to share with former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher.
"I have a lot of respect for John. I'd love to have a closer relationship with John if we weren't in the same competition," he said. "It's kind of similar to, I'd say different, but similar to my relationship with Bill Cowher. Before I got to Cleveland when Bill was at Kansas City, we spent a lot of time together, we talked, we visited each other, shared ideas. We were both young coaches anxious to learn and feed off the other guy and get some ideas and techniques and things like that. It was great. Then, I'm the head coach at Cleveland, he's the head coach at Pittsburgh and we play each other twice a year. I love Bill, but you're playing him twice a year, you're trying to do everything you can to find a way to beat him. ... It's a lot easier to have a relationship that isn't based on the direct competition that you're in."