`Dirty player' label won't stick to Scott

November 05, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

Bart Scott realized his reputation across NFL Nation had taken on a new dimension when his mother called him after the Ravens' game in New Orleans last Sunday.

"She was going, `Oh, my God, what did you say, what are you doing?' " he said last week, knocking out a quick and hilarious imitation that his mom might like even less. "I had to tell her, `No, Mom, it was nothing.' "

Except that, all of a sudden, it was something. With one tackle last Sunday, one slow retreat from the field and one clever post-game comment, Scott was no longer the emerging star rising from undrafted obscurity to being possibly the best performer on the best linebacking unit in the league, which is the backbone of one of the best defenses around.

Scott was now the guy who tried to hurt Reggie Bush. The guy who taunted him as the "Golden Boy." The guy who smirked that he "put a little hot sauce on that ankle."

Plus, the guy in demand on national radio shows, and a fresh target of a Chad Johnson barb. Does Scott join Ray Lewis on your "list" for today's game, the Bengals' mouthy wide-out was asked last week. "Naw," he said, "he's out there hurting people intentionally, so I think I need to stay away from Bart."

"It's amazing to me," Scott said. "I never thought it would make national news. A lot of people who maybe don't know me, that's the only way they know me now. I never thought it would become as big a deal as it became."

It shouldn't have - it takes about five seconds of being around Scott to realize he's going to answer every question with a sense of humor and a tongue firmly in cheek. And it's not escaping anyone's notice that this likely would be much less of a story if it had been an undrafted nobody (kind of like what Scott used to be) whose ankle had been sprained instead of the Heisman Trophy winner, No. 2 pick and franchise savior.

But now that Scott is the latest to wear the black hat on a notorious team, he's curious to see where his image around the NFL goes from here.

If it were up to him, he'd rather not be saddled with that rep. Players have been known to relish being perceived as "dirty," to get into opponents' heads. Scott figures he has done enough to get himself known simply by playing, without being cheap. He's still surprised that he's becoming the subject of magazine and broadcast features and getting mentioned for the Pro Bowl.

It's not that he has ever gone looking for attention (as does a certain receiver on the opposing team today), but he doesn't run away from it when it arrives. Combine that with the delirium of the post-victory locker room and with his natural exuberance in front of microphones, and it's easy for the situation to get as twisted as Bush's ankle was.

Usually, Scott said, "I just want to keep quiet, earning my stripes, earn my reputation by the way I play."

His story is compelling enough without the "hot sauce," to borrow his unintentionally unfortunate term. In fact, his story was compelling enough last season, when Bush was still at Southern California, Ray Lewis was out for the year and Scott was creeping into the spotlight as his replacement in his first extended time as a starter.

"They think I'm a new player," Scott said, cracking up again. "Like the Ravens signed me from another team, like I haven't been on this team for five years. It's like I wasn't here making tackles on special teams all these years. And you think, `Did anybody watch any tape of last season?'

"Me and A.D., it's the same thing," he added, referring to fellow once-unheralded linebacker and special teams grinder Adalius Thomas.

In turn, Thomas made this observation about the difference between attention being earned and being thrust upon you.

"Look at Mario Williams. They showed it on TV when he had his first [career] sack, you know?" Thomas said. "Why? Because he was the first pick [of this year's draft]. They didn't show Bart's first sack."

They show a lot of Scott's sacks now, nine in his past 16 games (which, by the way, has not hurt his recognition factor, since to lots of people a defensive player is invisible unless he's getting sacks or turnovers).

And they show routine, textbook tackles of marquee running backs who then leave the game in pain.

"Now they want to make it like Bart is a bad guy," Thomas said, "and it's not like that."

He's actually a good guy. And more and more every day, a great player, with or without the hot sauce.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Read David Steele's blog at baltimoresun.com/steeleblog.

David Steele -- Points After

Between the exhibition near-embarrassment last week and the National Invitation Tournament game last March, the Maryland men's basketball team is a little overdue for a good showing at Comcast Center. The next opportunity for redemption: Tuesday's regular-season opener against Hampton. Uh-uh, don't even say it, because you said the same thing about Manhattan.

Surprise of the NBA's opening week that nobody except Terps followers would even have reason to notice: Chris McCray on the opening-night roster of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Just a hunch, but don't be shocked if a certain sporting goods company cashes in big by marketing the new official NBA ball, as well as the discarded "classic" official NBA ball. I'm sure that wasn't part of the decision-making process at all.

It probably is the correct term for the way his Japanese team is soliciting offers for Daisuke Matsuzaka's negotiating rights, but I'd just as soon not refer to it as an "auction," thank you.

You've got to love the skeptics about Matsuzaka, based on not having seen him pitch overseas. By all means, play it safe and go for the known quantities. Sidney Ponson's available, isn't he?

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