BOSTON (CBS) — Back when John Harbaugh was vying to become the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, it was future Hall of Famer Bill Belichick who put in a recommendation for Harbaugh.
So when the Ravens’ coach seemingly called out Belichick on Tuesday morning, telling a Baltimore radio station that the Patriots’ championships were “stained” and had “asterisks,” it came as a surprise to Tedy Bruschi.
“The shot at Coach Belichick I don’t understand because when Coach Harbaugh was interviewing for the job in Baltimore, it was Coach Belichick that vouched for him,” Bruschi said on ESPN. “So there’s a little bit of loyalty that Coach Harbaugh needs to learn.”
Harbaugh initially told 98 Rock in Baltimore that he would never cheat, and he used the Patriots to explain why.
“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,” Harbaugh said. “If you’re cheating, in the end, you’re going to get discredited. It’s just not worth it.”
Bruschi, of course, was a member of all three Super Bowl-winning teams in New England, but he was also there in 2007 when “Spygate” become the biggest story in the NFL. He said on ESPN that since that news broke at the beginning of the ’07 season, he believes the Patriots have proven themselves a good enough organization for the Spygate talk to go away.
“I was there in 2007. I remember when it broke out, and I remember everyone discrediting our past successes and our past championships,” an impassioned Bruschi said. “So all we did, we had motivation to go out there and beat everyone by 20, or beat everyone by 30. Or at times, when you’re beating ‘em by 30, pour it on and beat ‘em by 40. That’s the only thing we could do was go answer on the field to prove how good we were as players and how good the coaches were on that football team.
“I mean, you go 16-0, an undefeated regular season, and you lose in the Super Bowl to the world champion New York Giants. You think your point’s proven right there by doing that, but next year we look at it as another opportunity, OK? Tom Brady goes down the very first game of the season, and we play with a quarterback in Matt Cassel that hasn’t started since high school, and we still go 11-5. So we figure we’re still proving ourselves and for the rest of my career you figure you got some proving to do.
“[We went] to one Super Bowl, and since then, the New England Patriots have been to another Super Bowl. So I don’t know what the Patriots organization or coach Belichick has to do to prove how good he is as a head coach, or how good those players were or how good that organization is.”
Harbaugh later backtracked his initial comments, saying he reached out to both Belichick and Bruschi to explain he meant no disrespect.
“My reference [to the stain] was to the perception out there that came as the result of the league’s actions,” Harbaugh said in an official team 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.”
Bruschi seemed to wish Harbaugh took a more direct stab at the Patriots.
“If you want to take a shot, go ahead and say it that way,” he said. “When I look down at my hand and I see championship rings, I know how much work had to be put in to win those championships. I’m very set and secure with all of the victories that we had and all of the work that had to be put in.”