Former Jets linebacker Bart Scott could have continued his playing career but instead decided to become an analyst with CBS on “The NFL Today” pregame show.
A month before he got the offer from CBS, Scott had begun training for a tryout with an unnamed AFC team, a tryout that was supposed to take place following the NFL Combine. He wanted to make sure he was ready to play so he did daily workout sessions at TEST Sports Clubs in New Jersey, where he trained the past three offseasons.
Scott spent last year outside of football, with surgery for the toe injury that plagued him much of the 2012 season keeping him off the field despite interest from several playoff teams. So he transitioned to what he thought was a temporary visit to TV, joining the cast of “That Other Pregame Show” on the CBS Sports Network. But even with the chance to continue his playing career, Scott said he couldn’t pass up “one of the premier jobs in the business” when the network called him a couple weeks ago about a move to their signature pregame show.
“My football agent actually pushed me in this direction. He said, ‘I love you Bart and I know you love to play, but this is a great opportunity.’ It took me back but I’m glad to hear it from him. At the end of the day, I’m a football player and that’s what I’m passionate about,” Scott told Metro. “He’s seen the whole football life and I’m living it, the football life. You come in, you’re young, working hard, trying to make money and then move on to something else. He knew where I was at. He said he knew these opportunities — the CBS one — don’t come around all that often. I commend him for that, because he said it to me knowing it was taking his cut away. By going to CBS I wasn’t going for that tryout and to sign with a team and continue playing. He was being honest with me. That just reassured me that I had a great team around me and I always had a great team around me.”
He said even if the tryout with the AFC team went well, there was no way he could pass up the gig at CBS. During the Super Bowl, he remembers seeing other former players, ones he would rank alongside himself in terms of on-the-field success, and he noted that they had radio programs in their local markets or were on local television. Here he was, with the chance to be seen from coast to coast on a network.
The transition has begun for Scott, the former “Madbacker” who was notorious for his postgame quotes and for what some from the outside perceived to be as his own rocky relationship with the media. During his last year with the Jets, he went through a media boycott for part of the season. His actions were in response to what he and many of his teammates saw was unfair criticism from the tabloid culture in the city.
“When I had my media boycott or whatever, that was about the team coming together,” Scott said. “I sold a lot of newspapers in New York. I gave a lot of sound bytes. I didn’t want to help sell papers that were talking down. It’s different than reporting what you see. It’s another thing to talk down and embarrass a group of people. I feel like that’s what it had become,. It became a joke. Instead of breaking the circus, they wanted to add to it. Now I get the chance to do how I want to get it done, report how I want to report [and] add my own flavor.”
As for his time with the Jets, Scott loved it and endorsed the contract extension given to head coach Rex Ryan, the man who recruited him to leave Baltimore and come to New York. Even though he didn’t win a Super Bowl in New York, he feels the duo broke the “same old Jets” mantra that hung over the team.
For a franchise with so few players who have built a lasting resume while in green and white, Scott endeared himself to the fan base quickly. Whether that is enough to put him in the Jets’ Ring of Honor remains to be seen.
“[I] don’t know if I have a big enough body of work here for the Jets. I’d like to say that we were part of changing the attitude here, making them a part of the conversation, bringing an identity,” Scott said. “I think you asked someone what a Jet was, they wouldn’t know what to say. You ask a Steeler, you know what they look like. You know what a Raider looks like. Now there is a physicality, a mentality, an accountability. Bringing that Ravens tradition but putting a Jets slant on [it]. People know who a Jet is now.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.