Hall of Fame coach Don Shula tried to clarify his comments about the effect the "Spygate" scandal would have on any records that may be achieved by this season's New England Patriots.
Shula told ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" on Thursday that if the Patriots finish with a perfect record to match that of his 1972 Dolphins, then there "shouldn't be any attachment to it," referring to a possible asterisk next to New England's name in the record books.
"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 said. "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."
Shula also said if New England can finish the season with an unblemished record, the Patriots "will deserve to be called the best team."
When asked if he expected Patriots coach Bill Belichick to take his call if New England were to have an undefeated season, Shula said he hoped so. Shula said that he has known both Belichick and his late father for many years, dating back to the elder Belichick's days at the Naval Academy.
Shula added that while many times before teams have made a run at his legendary Dolphins team, all comers have fallen short.
"If somebody does what we did or does better than we did, I'm going to be the first guy to call that coach and congratulate him," Shula said. "Our players I'm sure will congratulate their players because of the accomplishment. But until someone does it, it's still our record."
Earlier this week, Shula told the New York Daily News he thought the controversy in which Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots were fined $250,000 and lost a first-round draft pick for videotaping the Jets' sideline would leave a stain on any record.
"The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished," Shula told the paper. "You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They've got it."
Shula likened the Patriots scandal to that of the swirl around Barry Bonds in baseball.
"I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home run record," Shula told the Daily News.
Some Patriots players, Tedy Bruschi included, took exception to Shula's opinion.
"If someone questions your integrity, if someone questions who you are, if someone questions the organization you've been a part of ever since you walked into the league, would it upset you?" the linebacker asked, according to the Boston Herald. "So yes, it does upset me. I can't control how people feel about it. I can't control what comes out of their mouths. I only control what I do out there and what we do as a defense and what we do as a team. We keep winning and playing hard. If they want to keep saying those things, maybe we just need to play a little bit harder."
Others, like cornerback Ellis Hobbs, seemed indifferent to the Hall of Fame coach's remarks.
"It doesn't matter to us, man," Hobbs told the Herald. "We know what we do in our heart. We know what it takes to win the right way. We work at it day in and day out, even when that Spygate came. ... I don't consider myself a cheater. No one on this team does. We go out there and work day in and day out. The results speak for themselves."
The way the Patriots have been playing, Shula and the '72 Dolphins might find themselves answering more questions than in past years about whether their record will stand. New England improved to 9-0 on Sunday by beating the previously unbeaten Colts (7-1) in Indianapolis.
There have been serious runs made at the Dolphins' record before. The 1985 Bears started 12-0, then lost on a Monday night to a Dolphins team coached by Shula. The 1991 Redskins started 11-0 and the 1998 Broncos and 2005 Colts opened 13-0 before losing. Although members of the '72 Dolphins have become known for sipping champagne after the last unbeaten team falls by the wayside each season, Shula says stories of that annual celebration "have been blown out of proportion."
"You guys put forth the myth that we are pathetic losers down here clicking champagne glasses and clinging desperately to a record set 35 years ago," former Dolphins tight end Jim Mandich told the Daily News. "Somehow we've been portrayed as being evil. We don't ever blow our own horn. It's a great record, but the record doesn't get beaten.
"The Patriots have assembled a powerhouse of a team. They are a classy bunch of guys and play ball the right way. If they want to join the unbeaten club, come on aboard."