Shula softens his criticism of Patriots and Belichick

Posted: November 09, 2007

Don Shula used softer language yesterday, but stuck by his belief the New England Patriots' success this season is diminished by the spying scandal that prompted stiff punishment from the NFL in September.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Shula laughed when asked if the Patriots deserve an asterisk if they finish 19-0.

"That's not for me to say," the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach said. "They were penalized, after the first game, wasn't it? They had a No. 1 draft choice taken away, and [coach Bill] Belichick was fined, and the team was fined . . .

"Since then they've been playing within the rules, and their accomplishments should be recognized. But if there was something that happened to diminish what they've accomplished, then that has been noted."

Shula coached the Miami Dolphins to a 17-0 record in 1972, still the NFL's only perfect season. He caused a stir when he first made critical comments regarding the Patriots scandal to the New York Daily News on Monday.

"You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They've got it," Shula told the newspaper. "I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home-run record. I guess it will be noted that the Patriots were fined and a No. 1 draft choice was taken away during that year of accomplishment."

However, Shula declined to make the Bonds comparison when asked about it by the AP.

"I don't know enough about Barry Bonds," Shula said.

And Shula backtracked yesterday when discussing the Patriots on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning."

"If they run the table, and they win all the games, then they are doing it within the rules of the National Football League," Shula told ESPN. "And there shouldn't be any asterisk to it. That would be the accomplishment that they made. It would be the best in all of sports."

Following the Patriots' season opener, the NFL determined the team used a video camera to spy on opposing coaches and steal signals. Commissioner Roger Goodell fined Belichick $500,000 and docked the team $250,000 and a first-round draft pick next year.

The Patriots are 9-0 this season after defeating previously unbeaten Indianapolis last Sunday.

Noteworthy

* The Chiefs said running back Larry Johnson's injured right foot "has made significant improvement." Johnson, who rushed for more than 1,750 yards each of the past 2 years, was injured in the fourth quarter of Kansas City's 33-22 loss to Green Bay on Sunday. Coaches have said he would almost certainly not play this Sunday against Denver.

A Denver television station reported earlier this week that Johnson has a broken foot and is out for the year. The Chiefs have insisted all they know is he has a midfoot sprain and will probably not play Sunday. A news release by the Chiefs said Johnson had "less swelling and pain in his injured right foot."

* Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas might be back in the lineup this week. Thomas returned to full contact at practice. He has been bothered by the lingering effects of a concussion and car accident. Thomas said he expects to play Sunday against Buffalo, but awaits medical clearance.

* Buffalo rookie tight end Derek Schouman's season ended when he became the 10th player placed on the Bills' injured-reserve list. The Bills could be down another tight end for their game at Miami on Sunday after Matt Murphy hurt his left calf in practice.

* Saints sacks leader Brian Young had arthroscopic surgery for left knee swelling and will miss Sunday's home game against St. Louis. The news was better regarding running back Reggie Bush, who returned to action after not practicing a day earlier because of a sore left knee.

Two other starters missed practice altogether: defensive end Charles Grant (ankle) and linebacker Scott Shanle (hamstring).

* The Chicago Bears have lost nine-time Pro Bowl left guard Ruben Brown for the season because of a right shoulder injury that will require surgery. The team placed Brown on injured reserve after he missed Wednesday's practice. Terrence Metcalf will take his place in the starting lineup Sunday against Oakland.

* Minnesota rookie wide receiver Sidney Rice didn't practice because of a hamstring injury. After aggravating the injury on Wednesday, Rice was unable to take the field. Leading wide receiver Bobby Wade was limited in last week's game against San Diego because of a hyperextended knee, and he has been limited in practice again this week.

* Browns starting guards Eric Steinbach and Seth McKinney missed practice and their status is uncertain for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh. *

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