Scott falls into line

Ravens linebacker confines standout act to his play

January 03, 2009|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

Bart Scott is no longer getting attention for the wrong reasons.

Rare are the emotional outbursts that earned the Ravens linebacker penalty flags and additional scrutiny from NFL officials. Nearly as infrequent are the vitriolic comments that garnered him scorn from media pundits and his opponents.

An additional topic that has not surfaced with much regularity is the possibility that tomorrow's AFC wild-card playoff game against the Miami Dolphins could be Scott's last as a Raven. But Scott, who is only 28 years old, isn't worried.

"I think there's a good chance I could stay here and retire here," said Scott, who is nearing the end of a three-year, $13.5 million contract that he signed before the 2006 season. "My family's here, I'm invested into the community, and it would be natural for me to just continue to do what I do. To go somewhere and have to start over is always tough, and I've made a lot of friends here and a lot of good memories. I would love to continue to make some more here."

While retaining Scott might be a priority, it has taken a back seat to tomorrow's game. "At this junction, our concentration is on the Miami Dolphins," general manager Ozzie Newsome said Wednesday. "Once the season is over, we'll go through the normal process of a full team evaluation."

While much of the franchise's attention on potential free-agent linebackers has centered on Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, Scott has been just as critical in aiding a defense ranked in the top three this season in yards (second), points allowed (third), rush defense (third) and pass defense (second).

Scott recorded his fourth consecutive 100-tackle season, collecting 104 stops, according to the Ravens' statistics. That is second only to Lewis' 160 tackles. Scott has posted 54 solo tackles and 1 1/2 sacks, and he has broken up five passes.

"He's doing a great job, and I think when Greg Mattison came in here to coach [the linebackers], he really took to Greg and tried to get his game even tighter," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "From the steps and everything else and his reads, you can see that in his play. Bart is really a complete player."

After earning his first Pro Bowl invitation by recording career highs in tackles (135), sacks (9 1/2 ) and interceptions (two) in 2006, Scott's sack totals have slipped to just 2 1/2 over the past two seasons. While doubters have used the lack of sacks to question whether Scott was a one-year wonder, those same critics failed to recognize that Scott has assumed Adalius Thomas' assignments, which involve dropping into pass coverage.

"I'm an inside linebacker. I'm not concerned with how many sacks I get," Scott said. "That [2006] was a special year for me to blitz, and Adalius [Thomas] took a lot of responsibility. So now, my responsibilities and Adalius' responsibilities kind of mesh together. So now I'm kind of doing both jobs, not just the blitzing aspect."

In 2007, Scott drew notoriety for threatening to "kill" Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and launching an official's penalty flag against an M&T Bank Stadium wall in protest of a call in a loss to the New England Patriots.

But aside from throwing a verbal jab at Tennessee Titans running back LenDale White about his weight this season, Scott has refrained from such public moments.

Suggs said he is hoping the Ravens will find a way to keep Lewis, Scott and himself.

"I think by some miracle, all three of us are still going to be here next year, especially if we go on this run," Suggs said. "Ray's our leader, he's our emotional leader. Bart is our crazy leader. He's a little psychotic here and there, but he's Bart. He's 'The Mad Backer,' and we love him for it. He's one of us. He's ours. I can't picture a defense without him. I don't want to."

Scott, who agreed to a new contract with the Ravens while he was touring the Cleveland Browns' facility as a free agent in 2006, has not faced questions about his loyalty to the Ravens. The question now is whether the club's loyalty to Scott is as resolute.

"I hope that they would return the favor," Scott said. "Like I've said, I've always wanted to be a Raven. I love doing the unexpected, and the athlete in this modern era coming in and spending his entire career with one team is rare, and it's even rarer for an undrafted free agent. I think it would be special, and I hope we can make it happen."

RAVENS (11-5)@DOLPHINS (11-5)

AFC wild card; tomorrow, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9 Radio: 1090 AM, 97.9 FM Line: Ravens by 3 1/2

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