BOSTON (CBS) — The Baltimore Ravens just don’t seem to be happy these days unless they’re talking about the Patriots.
Fresh off an NFL Draft weekend, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was a guest on 98 Rock in Baltimore. Harbaugh was asked about the Saints’ bounty scandal and whether he’s ever been attempted to find an edge by working around the rules. For whatever reason, the best way he could put his answer in context was by calling out the Patriots for cheating.
“The funny thing about that is that 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 whether they won their championships or not, they got asterisks now. They’ve been stained. So to me, it’s never worth it.
“If you’re cheating, in the end, you’re going to get discredited. It’s just not worth it.”
Harbaugh, of course, is referencing “Spygate,” the scandal that might never fully go away. Despite the fact that the Saints’ punishment for their bounty system was far more severe than the punishment handed down to the Patriots, and despite the fact that videotaping coach’s signals on the sideline has literally nothing in common with a coach paying players to injure opponents, Harbaugh didn’t hesitate to go out of his way to call the Patriots’ championships tainted.
Harbaugh was asked if he’d ever felt another team had cheated to know certain plays he was calling, and he quickly answered yes.
“Yeah, I have, but if I say when, it’s going to be like on Pro Football Talk, it’s gonna blow up and go crazy and I’m gonna get accused of accusing somebody of something,” Harbaugh said.
Despite his best attempts to limit the spread of the story, his comments quickly made national news. Harbaugh released a statement through the Ravens to clarify that he did not mean to discredit the Patriots’ championships.
“My reference [to the stain] was to the perception out there that came as the result of the league’s actions,” Harbaugh said in the statement. ”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. There has been some distortion about what I said.
“I have so much respect for Coach Belichick and the job he does and has accomplished in his Hall of Fame career,” Harbaugh added. “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.”
Despite the apology, pot shots at the Patriots aren’t anything new for the Ravens. After this year’s AFC Championship Game loss in New England, when Lee Evans dropped a game-winning touchdown and Billy Cundiff choked on a chip shot that would have tied the game, the Ravens weren’t prepared to blame themselves. Nope — instead, they wanted folks to wonder whether Bill Belichick and the Patriots were back to their cheating ways.
Ravens kicking consultant Randy Brown went on Baltimore radio station 94 WIP a few days after the loss and said there was confusion with the stadium scoreboard misrepresenting the down on the field, leading the kicking unit to be forced to rush onto the field for the game-tying field goal attempt. Brown was asked if he thought there was any funny business going on, and Brown was happy to perpetuate such a theory.
“I don’t think you can rule anything out in New England, can you?” Brown said.
At the time, Brown was not ruling out that the scoreboard operator at Gillette Stadium was crafty enough to make a split-second decision to mess with the downs on the scoreboard in order to confuse only the Ravens and not the Patriots, and that the scoreboard operator was somehow responsible for the Ravens opting not to use a timeout to get their field goal unit settled and set up properly. No, no — you can’t rule anything out in New England.
For Harbaugh’s comments, don’t expect any sort of response at all from the Patriots or from Belichick, but the best rebuttal may be found on the scoreboard. Since Harbaugh became head coach of Baltimore, his Ravens are 1-3 against the Patriots. Going back to the beginning of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, the Patriots are 5-1 against the Ravens. Harbaugh will have a chance to let out some of his inner rage when his Ravens host the Patriots in Week 3 this year on national TV. (If the Ravens lose yet again to the Patriots, fear not, Baltimore — the Patriots’ victory will be stained!)
Harbaugh apologized and tried to clarify what he meant, but the damage was already done. At least we know, though, that the losses to New England won’t keep Harbaugh up at night, because as far as he’s concerned, any and all Patriots success will forever be stained. Oh, and if you check the Super Bowl history records, the funny thing about that is, you won’t see any asterisks. I guess we’re all still waiting for that to be brought into the light of day.