Ravens' Scott tackles starting role with vigor

Ravens

Football

December 09, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Before proving he could be a starter in the NFL, the Ravens' Bart Scott had to first show he could finish.

Three years after leaving Southern Illinois, Scott took two online classes in the spring to graduate with an economics degree in May.

For Scott, it was as much about determination as the diploma.

"The main point is to finish what you start," Scott said. "Who wants to run the race hard, get around to the straightaway and pull up? I didn't want to do that."

Scott's relentless effort - Ravens coach Brian Billick calls him "a wild stallion" - is why he is much more than a fill-in linebacker on the league's No. 7 defense.

A special teams player for three years, Scott received the first starts of his career when Ray Lewis went down with a hamstring injury in late October, and he has earned the right to stay there. In six starts, he has averaged 8.0 tackles, more than what Lewis averaged (7.7) in the same number of games.

Scott's strong play could force the Ravens to make an interesting decision this offseason. Which unrestricted free agent should the team re-sign to fill its one starting job at outside linebacker: Scott or Tommy Polley?

Polley, 27, a five-year starter in the NFL, has more experience. Scott, 25, might have more of an upside.

"I don't think anybody would have any qualification about wondering, `Is [Scott] a starter?' " Billick said. "I think he's played enough where he's verified that."

With Lewis out for the rest of the season, Scott will be given the chance to keep up his frenetic pace.

He has recorded four sacks, recovered a fumble and broken up four passes. He has led the Ravens in tackling in two games and finished second in four others.

"Until you go out there and do it, it's not a definite you can play," Scott said. "I'm not a guy who's going out there to just be where he's supposed to be. I'm a guy who's going to try to be a difference-maker."

Since joining the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2002, Scott has made a difference on special teams. He has finished first or second in special teams tackles the previous three seasons and ranks second this year with 15.

The Ravens relied heavily on Scott last Sunday, when they needed him to play a total of 99 snaps on defense and special teams.

Asked if he tired in that game, Scott laughed and said, "I got three years of freshness on my legs. I would have taken 120 just to be on the damn field."

Scott admitted he never thought he would start for the Ravens.

Over the years, he would be the stand-in at minicamps that Lewis chose not attend. When the regular season rolled around, Scott was relegated to about 30 snaps on defense each season as a part-time dime back (sixth defensive back).

He had played in 51 games before getting his first start in Pittsburgh on Oct. 31.

Scott's seamless transition from the practice field is attributed to a newfound discipline.

"Bart is like a wild stallion; he's all over the place," Billick said. "But he's developed the focus that position needs and is why he's playing well."

The Ravens need Scott to step up Sunday, when they face the Denver Broncos and the NFL's No. 2 rushing attack. The Broncos average about 33 rushing attempts a game and 5.0 yards a carry.

Just as important for a pending free agent like Scott, these final four games have become an audition for the Ravens as well as the rest of the league.

"The guys I play against don't have to like me, but hopefully they see that I have talent," Scott said. "I play this game for respect."

Notes -- The Ravens placed Lewis on injured reserve and signed third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre from the practice squad. According to Billick, initial reports indicate Lewis will need two to three months to recover from hamstring surgery, which would make him available for offseason workouts. "It looks very promising in that regard," Billick said. ... Defensive end Tony Weaver, who is doubtful with a back injury, might play again this season. Billick said earlier this week that there was a possibility Weaver would be placed on injured reserve. "It sounds like it maybe is not as serious and there is a reasonable chance he could be back," Billick said. ... Left guard Edwin Mulitalo (questionable, knee) returned to practice after missing Wednesday, but right guard Keydrick Vincent (questionable, thigh) did not work out yesterday after practicing Wednesday. Cornerback Chris McAlister (questionable, thigh) practiced for a second straight day. ... Offensive tackle Orlando Brown (back) did not practice and was downgraded to doubtful. ... The Ravens signed linebacker Zac Woodfin, a rookie out of Alabama-Birmingham, to the practice squad.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Ravens@Broncos Sunday, 4:15 p.m., chs. 13, 9, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Broncos by 14

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