OWINGS MILLS – The Mad Backer swears he hasn’t changed.
Bart Scott insists he’s still owns the same fun-loving, swaggering personality.
When the New York Jets’ inside linebacker played for the Baltimore Ravens, he was an intimidating presence prone to unpredictable, occasionally out of control behavior on the field.
He once tossed a referee’s flag into the stands during the final minutes of a loss to the New England Patriots.
He threatened to kill Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward after being victimized by a vicious crack-back block.
He made fun of Ward’s Korean background.
He dared Jerome Bettis to cross an imaginary line on the field.
He called LenDale White plump.
With his trademark sense of humor, Scott delivered countless colorful quotes into reporters’ tape recorders.
These days, though, Scott seems more subdued and perhaps more mature as he prepares for Monday night’s high-profile game against his old football team.
"Did you watch Hard Knocks?" Scott said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "I’m still me. I’m always going to have fun. I’m always going to play with a chip on my shoulder, and I’m always going to be passionate about what I do. I take things personal, and that’s the way I play.
"That’s who I am, and that can’t change. I think I still can do that and still be a leader as well. Being a leader is being a guy that comes in here and they see how hard you work and how hard you prepare. And that’s how you gain the respect of your teammates, not by saying words. Words mean nothing. Productivity is what leaders produce."
Scott is an inspiration to the Jets, just as he was with the Ravens.
His locker room presence kept things loose in Baltimore.
And he was a living testament to how an undrafted, obscure rookie free agent from a small school can make an impact on an NFL team.
The Ravens were the only team that wanted Scott out of Southern Illinois as he was discovered by former scout T.J. McCreight.
The Ravens signed Scott to a contract, giving him a $500 bonus that barely took care of his phone bill and other expenses.
He emerged as a starting inside linebacker next to All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis after first catching coaches’ attention as a special-teams ace.
The Jets rewarded Scott over a year ago with a $48 million contract, and he chose their offer over a competing offer sheet from the Ravens. Being the Jets’ first choice over Lewis appealed to Scott.
Jets coach Rex Ryan and other coaches showed up on Scott’s doorstep to convince him to join the Jets as soon as the clock struck midnight to open the free agent signing period.
Scott knows what it’s like to not be someone’s first choice as he was lightly recruited out of high school.
He empathized with Ryan when he was passed over by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, when they hired John Harbaugh as head coach.
"I’m sure that was a blow because he was next in line," Scott said. "He had paid his dues, and I’m sure that was disappointing. But I think he handled it with pride and class. He came in and he got that defense to play that last year. He helped guys buy into Harbaugh’s system.
"He was an integral part in that run. He gave Harbaugh instant credibility, because Rex put his name behind what Harbaugh was trying to accomplish and the message that he was saying. Rex was saying, ‘I know this guy. Trust me, guys. Buy in, and we have a shot.’”
In his Jets debut last season, Scott finished second on the team in tackles behind fellow standout inside linebacker David Harris.
Scott was hardened by his rough background in inner-city Detroit where gangs menaced his neighborhood.
His family experienced a tragedy this summer when his older sister’s fiancé was murdered by burglars. He was stabbed in the neck and bled to death in front of his 12-year-old son.
Scott’s sister lost her job, and he’s paying her way to go back to school to pursue a degree in interior design.
Years ago, Scott’s cousin was paralyzed in a bar shooting.
It’s never been easy for Scott, or his family.
Scott retains close ties with the Ravens, especially director of player development O.J. Brigance. Brigance is bravely battling Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Brigance encouraged Scott to complete his economics degree.
"I’ve got a lot of friends over there, good times," Scott said. "I’m happy where I am now. I’m looking forward to trying to get an opportunity to get a win so we can try and accomplish our goal at the end of the year. That’s pretty much what it’s all about. I have nothing but good feelings when I reflect on that time of my life."
The Jets’ brash approach is personified by Ryan, and HBO magnified that image to the world.
As far as Scott is concerned, the Jets’ approach should only attract more players to New York in the future.
“Hard Knocks’ depicted how we go about business: We have fun," he said. "If people really paid attention, they would pay attention to see that we get our work in. It’s the same thing that we did in Baltimore as well. These guys haven’t changed, these guys haven’t went Hollywood. I think if anything, free agents are looking around like, ‘I want to go play there.’ If anything, I think it was more of a recruitment tool.
"Hard Knocks showed a lot of fun that we had: how we go about business. So, people may take a view of our team by watching Hard Knocks, but we get it in over here. They didn’t report all the hard work that we did, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t do it.”