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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Here's the deal with Carroll and Harbaugh

By Mike Sando

NEW ORLEANS -- If Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh could not stand one another, they wouldn't have sat together voluntarily and chatted so comfortably Tuesday morning.

"I'm glad somebody witnessed that, because that is how we are," Carroll said over breakfast Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting. "It is perceived differently, which is fine, but Jim's a good guy and I have great respect for his coaching."

Carroll and Harbaugh were among 31 NFL head coaches available to reporters over breakfast (Bill Belichick failed to show). The league set up 32 tables in a hotel ballroom, arranging them in rows by divisional affiliation. NFC West tables lined the far wall.

The room was mostly empty when I arrived to set up. Carroll was there and Harbaugh showed up soon after. Once Harbaugh realized their tables were side by side, he came over to Carroll and sat next to him for several minutes. I was seated far enough away to give them some privacy, but close enough to assess the tone of their conversation. It was natural, amiable and quite different from the 2009 postgame meeting that has come to define their relationship publicly.

"What's your deal?" Carroll reportedly asked Harbaugh after Stanford went for a two-point conversion during the latter stages of a blowout victory over USC.

"What's your deal?" Harbaugh reportedly shot back.

This was the deal Tuesday: The two interacted so naturally that I forgot to ask Harbaugh about their relationship after bouncing over to his table later during the nearly two-hour session.

Carroll and Harbaugh discussed, among other things, the draft and how it differs from the recruiting process in college.

"We'll battle it out and I like going against him, coaching against him," Carroll said. "He is someone I regard quite highly."