THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Spygate comment gets Harbaugh backpedaling

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / May 2, 2012
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The story that apparently won’t ever die - Spygate - was thrust back into the headlines Tuesday thanks to one comment, one retraction, and one mea culpa.

It began in the morning, when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh appeared on the team’s flagship radio station, 98Rock, to promote a fund-raising event for the charity run by former Ravens player O.J. Brigance, who suffers from ALS.

Harbaugh was asked about the Saints bounty scandal. The question was long, but in so many words, the host wondered whether Harbaugh ever thinks about having his players try to get away with certain things in pursuit of wins.

Harbaugh’s answer: “The funny thing about that is, is that in the end, everything is brought before the light of day when it’s all said and done. [Host: “The truth always rises’’] It does!

“So what happens is, even the thing in New England and the [New Orleans] thing . . . 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.

“That’s what success is in the world: You’ve got to find a way to do things better than somebody else. But in the end, if you’re cheating, you’re going to get discredited. It’s just not worth it.’’

The Ravens hired Harbaugh as head coach in 2008; Bill Belichick called Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti during the hiring process and recommended Harbaugh, who had been the longtime special teams coordinator and then defensive backs coach with the Eagles.

Belichick, himself a former special teams coach, has said on several occasions that he believes special teams coaches are logical head coaching candidates because they have experience working with nearly every player on a team - offense, defense, starters, and reserves.

After Harbaugh’s comments went viral via Twitter, he issued a statement in which he said he “referred to the perception’’ that the Patriots’ and Saints’ Super Bowl titles are stained.

“My reference was to the perception out there that came as a result of the league’s actions,’’ the statement said. “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, New Orleans coach] both know that. There has been some distortion about what I said.’’

Harbaugh went on to say that he had called Belichick to “remind him of my respect for him’’ and also reached out to Tedy Bruschi, who vehemently defended his former coach and teammates on ESPN.

Regardless of what Harbaugh intended to say, the damage likely is done with Belichick, who has a long memory for such things.

And that wasn’t the end of the day’s Spygate drama.

In the afternoon, Eric Mangini, the former Patriots assistant who as Jets head coach was the whistle-blower on his former boss, expressed regret for what he’d done, and said he did not believe it would linger as long as it has.

“It’s regret, it’s disappointment, it’s all of those things,’’ Mangini said on ESPN, where he and Bruschi are both employed as analysts. “Because I know what it took to win those Super Bowls and I have so much respect for the people that were involved there. I’m disappointed that this is what it’s translated into.

“Never in a million years did I expect it to play out like this. This is one of those situations where I didn’t want them to do the things they were doing. I didn’t think it was any kind of significant advantage, but I wasn’t going to give them the convenience of doing it in our stadium, and I wanted to shut it down.

“But there was no intent to get the league involved. There was no intent to have the landslide that it has become.’’

It was one of the few times that Mangini has publicly discussed Spygate; last September, on the eve of the season, he also expressed regret in an interview on WEEI.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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