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Harbaugh clarifies remarks after saying Patriots' Super Bowl wins are 'stained'

OWINGS MILLS -- John Harbaugh backtracked quickly on his remarks about the New England Patriots' legacy being "stained" due to their involvement in Spygate, issuing a statement hours later saying he doesn't feel that way and called Patriots coach Bill Belichick to apologize.

Harbaugh was asked a question during a radio interview Tuesday morning about the New Orleans Saints' Bountygate scandal, but wound up saying a lot more about the Patriots.

While Harbaugh never specifically mentioned Belichick in the interview, it was Belichick who was punished by the NFL for his role in Spygate where the Patriots illegally videotaped opponents' defensive signals.

"In the end, everything is brought before the light of day," Harbaugh said during an interview with 98 Rock. "Even the thing in New England, 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. You've got to figure out ways to use the rules to your advantage."

In the statement, Harbaugh indicated that he didn't believe the Patriots won their three Super Bowl championships as a result of cheating and said he was simply referring to the perception surrounding the AFC East organization due to Spygate.

"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. "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 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."

Belichick was fined the NFL maximum of $500,000 five years ago, and the Patriots were fined $250,00 for spying on the New York Jets' defensive signals.

And NFL commissioner Roger Goodell docked the Patriots a first-round draft pick and wrote to the Patriots: "This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid long-standing rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field."

It's interesting that Harbaugh brought up the Patriots considering that he and Belichick are considered to be friendly and Belichick gave an unsolicated recommendation to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to hire Harbaugh when he was going through the interview process four years ago.

Harbaugh and Belichick, a big Johns Hopkins lacrosse fan, have also spent time together at the NCAA lacrosse championships at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens lost to the Patriots in the AFC championship game. They will host the Patriots on Sept. 23 in a nationally-televised Sunday night game at M&T Bank Stadium.

In the wake of that loss, former Ravens kicking consultant Randy Brown alleged that the Patriots intentionally showed the wrong down on the scoreboard prior to kicker Billy Cundiff flubbing a rushed field goal.

Harbaugh didn't approve of Browns comments, saying: "Any suggestion that the wrong down information was a deliberate effort to affect the outcome of the game is nonsense."

Meanwhile, Harbaugh claimed in the interview that other teams have cheated when facing the Ravens previously. He declined to specify any teams, though.

"We've got new work rules here as far as what we can do and what we can't do with our players, and we're going to make the most of it," Harbaugh said. "What we're finding is, 'Man, maybe we can do some things even better than we did before,' because these rules make us focus more on some things that we didn't focus on before.

"You just have to make them work for you. That's what success is in the world. You have to find a way to do things better than somebody else. But if you're cheating, in the end, you're going to get discredited. It's not worth it."

Reach staff writer Aaron Wilson at 410-857-7896 or sports@carrollcountytimes.com

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