For $48 million, the Jets essentially bought a never-ending supply of four-letter words.
When the Jets signed linebacker Bart Scott to a six-year contract before last season, they knew that they were bringing in an impact player who would fit perfectly into head coach Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. Scott had earned a reputation as an aggressive playmaker in Baltimore when Ryan was the Ravens defensive coordinator. Playing alongside the vocal and fiery Ray Lewis, Scott excelled and was instrumental in turning the Ravens into the league’s most feared defense.
Now, out from under the wings of the Ravens' Lewis, Scott is the voice of the Jets and is undoubtedly their leader on defense. In a veteran locker room, it is Scott who is jawing and dropping bombs in his pregame routine.
It’s the stuff of "Friday Night Lights," but for the Jets, it’s very real. Scott's brash ways aren't just accepted by his teammates, they're fully embraced.
“That’s his game. I can’t be like Bart Scott and say the things he says,” nose tackle Sione Pouha said. “But I’ll tell you what, I love to follow him.
And going into a game like Sunday in Foxborough with the memory of the Week 13 rout still relatively fresh in their minds, the Jets need Scott to inspire them once more. The nine-year veteran isn’t the most dominant player on the Jets defense, in fact, he’s far from it. What he is, however, is a voice that is heard loud and clear, a no-nonsense throwback who embraces his leadership role with the team. And the Jets are all too willing to listen.
Trevor Pryce might have the most open ears of them all. Former teammates in Baltimore, Pryce remembers Scott being the same player back then as he is now. The Scott who exuberantly celebrates tackles made by his teammates and is constantly trash-talking on the field is the same one in the locker room when the cameras are away.
Scott’s passion, the Jets say, echoes throughout the locker room before every game.
“He’s the same on as he is off. He’s intense but he knows when to pull it back,” Pryce said. “I think he’s more valuable off the field, at least to me. “
It’s the fact that Scott walks the walk after his talk that most impresses his Jets teammates. His 81 tackles this season will be the lowest of his career since 2004, the last time in his NFL career when Scott wasn’t a regular starter with the Ravens. His numbers aren’t gaudy but his style of play is more important to his teammates then the numbers. His impact goes beyond the numbers in a way that only the Jets can understand.
But that’s not to say that he isn’t still delivering the goods on Sunday afternoons. The 30-year-old linebacker backs up his verbiage with a fair dose of shattering hits.
“As a football player, there’s nothing you can say about him that hasn’t be said,” Pryce said. “He’s tough, he’s fast, he’s very violent.”
In giving the inside linebacker such a lavish contract, Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum understood that they were not only paying for production from Scott, they were getting a rallying point in the locker room. Part of what made the Ravens defense that Ryan oversaw when he was a coordinator in Baltimore so great was their swagger and confidence. The Jets lacked that motivational fire under previous coach Eric Mangini and Ryan wanted to infuse that into the team.
What had been a cookie-cutter defense with bland personalities during Mangini’s tenure has now taken to Scott’s brash ways. Ryan for one, loves it and said that Scott’s personality was a selling point in bringing him over with him to the Jets.
“He’s the guy that epitomizes what you look for - a guy that believes in himself, is tough, self-made, a great teammate, a guy that builds people up and will knock the heck out of you,” Ryan said. “That’s the type of guy that you want to bring in; I wanted to surround myself with.”
As teammate and friend Pryce pointed out, Scott knows when to turn it on and when to turn it off. A devoted wrestling fan since childhood, he’s modeled his quote ability and trash talk around the glory days of WWF. While he won’t wear a championship belt on the field this Sunday against the Patriots – though wrestling mogul Vince McMahon did give him an honorary belt in appreciation for his fandom – Scott will be dishing out his own version of what he hopes will me some smackdowns on New England.
As for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who angered the Jets by supposedly taunting them in Week 13 when he pointed towards their sideline following a touchdown, Scott was sincere in his thoughts on the perceived Brady gesture.
“My job is to stop him. My job isn’t to analyze his finger-pointing or what he does or anything like that,” Scott said. “The best way to stop any of that is to not let [him] make plays.”