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John Harbaugh on the 'stain' and 'asterisk' of cheating

Five years later, no one has forgotten about Spygate. The New England Patriots' videotaping scandal has been talked about quite a bit in the wake of the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" punishments, with a lot of awkward comparisons between the two.

While the Saints' and Patriots' infractions were very different, both teams broke the rules while seeking an edge. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked Tuesday morning if he's ever tempted to cross that line.

"In the end, everything is brought before the light of day, when it's all said and done," Harbaugh told WIYY-FM in Baltimore. "What happens, 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."

Harbaugh remains very friendly with Belichick, reveres him as a coach and even received a recommendation from Belichick for the Ravens job. He's not attacking the Patriots coach. Harbaugh is just speaking the truth.

Fans and even folks around the league look at the Patriots in a different light after Spygate. The videotaping scandal has become part of the team's legacy.

These quotes look a lot worse written out than they sounded on the radio. They will be blown out of proportion because Spygate discussions still cause us all to go a little crazy. The Saints' "bounty" punishments will have the same effect in conversations and NFL lore for years. That type of legacy is what Harbaugh wants to avoid.

"To me, it's never worth it," he said. "You have to figure out ways to use the rules to your advantage, you have to figure out ways to make the most of everything. We have 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. 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."

UPDATE: The comments were blown out of proportion, just like we expected. Harbaugh called Belichick to explain Tuesday, then released a statement through the Ravens:

"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. 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.

"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."

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