Harbaugh was head coach of the Ravens for only one year as he and his defensive coordinator Rex Ryan helped guide the team to within one game of the Super Bowl. The Ravens' head coach downplayed the meeting on Monday night, the first time the two will face each other in a game that matters.
Despite the fact that Ryan left the league's best defense in Baltimore to create the league's best defense in New York, Harbaugh has nothing but respect for his former assistant.
"He's a guy I personally have a lot of respect for. He's a friend of mine. He's done a great job there and took them to the championship game last year," Harbaugh said on a conference call Thursday afternoon. "He's proven himself as a great head coach. It's got to be business and we're both going to try to win the game."
After an offseason of big signings and the team being the centerpiece of HBO's reality show Hard Knocks, the Jets have been the talk of the NFL. Ryan has made it no secret that not only does this Jets team have Super Bowl ambitions, they expect to play in the game for the first time in more than four decades. His strong talk and swagger has ruffled some feathers in the media and the NFL, but Harbaugh isn't concerned that Ryan has overstepped his bounds with his brusque talk.
"Everybody makes their own decision about how they want to perceive people. That's up to every individual person. I choose to perceive it how I want to perceive it. I think he's a heck of a coach and a good person," Harbaugh said.
If, as Harbaugh puts it, "everybody makes their own decision" on Ryan's bold offseason statements, then his players can't be faulted for their perception on the talk.
"Rex can talk all he wants to. Rex isn't putting on pads, so that's pressure on his players. If it's pressure and his players respond to that then let them respond," Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis said. "At the same time, you put that bulls-eye on your team's head. They're doing all this talking. They're in the Super Bowl. Ok. Do what you do."
True to form, Ryan didn't sidestep Lewis' comments when asked for a response Thursday afternoon.
"He's going up against a team this week that, trust me, we don't care about them either," Ryan said. "It's going to be a no holds barred match and let's see what happens."
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012