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Bill Belichick: ‘I have all the respect in the world’ for John Harbaugh

01.19.12 at 2:32 pm ET
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Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh (AP)

FOXBORO — Don’t look for a pair of feuding coaches’ in this year’s AFC Championship Game, as Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh have nothing but good things to say about each other.

Harbaugh was hired as the head coach of the Ravens four years ago this week, and according to reports, Belichick was instrumental in serving as a reference. Harbaugh was effusive in his praise of the Patriots coach.

“Maybe it’s the old special teams guys, you know?” joked Harbaugh, who, like Belichick, made his bones initially as a special teams coach. “I just respect Bill Belichick as a coach and as a man. I just really do. I think he’s the greatest coach in our league right now, and that’s proven. And that’s why you get so excited to have an opportunity to play against a guy [like him] as a coach.”

Belichick, a Maryland native, returned the compliment before practice on Thursday, saying that he and Harbaugh have “a good relationship.”

“I see him from time to time,” Belichick said. “I spend a little bit of time in that area because of my roots being back there. We’re both pretty entrenched in what we’re doing. But (in) Indianapolis or league meetings, stuff like that, I enjoy talking to John, I think he’s a great guy (who) does a good job with his football team. I have all the respect in the world for him. This week, I hope our team can play a little better than theirs, that’s all.”

Belichick said that in a relatively short time, Harbaugh has managed to put his distinctive stamp on the Ravens.

“They’re tough, they’re physical, they don’t make many mistakes, they’re very well prepared, they do a great job of situational football,” Belichick said of Harbaugh’s team. “They’re physical in all three areas of the game. They run the ball well, obviously they have a physical defense, they’re very physical in the kicking game. I think that’s what John wants — he really wants them to be a tough, physical, hardnosed football team. And they are.”

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