Jonathan Scott was hours away from hitching a plane to Buffalo, N.Y. last August. His bags were packed. His career, rejuvenated. His attitude, refreshed. That's what happens when you're released by the Detroit Lions — newfound joy. After three miserable years in Motown, Scott was amped for a new start in Buffalo.
And at the last second, the Bills called. Jason Peters had finally decided to end his holdout. Scott's roster spot in-waiting was snatched away. He flew to Green Bay soon after, visiting with 10 more teams in all. Nothing stuck.
"It was a sticky situation with Jason Peters," Scott said by phone to BuffaloFootballReport.com this week. "I was going to sign with the Bills, but Peters came back."
But presto, here he is today, fighting with a batch of holdovers at offensive tackle to replace Peters. The Bills eventually signed Scott in December when Aaron Schobel was placed on injured reserve. Now, Peters is gone for good. After dodging 0-16 futility by getting cut by the Lions, he feels liberated in Buffalo.
The atmosphere, the attitude. It's all completely different. Scott laughs that he gets paid to play in 15-below weather. But really, he'll take 70-below. Sure, Scott started here and there in Detroit. But over his three years in Detroit, football became less fun. The emotional high of blocking for Texas along Vince Young's Rose Bowl joy ride through USC's defense wore off after Scott was picked in the fifth round by the Lions.
Jonathan Scott had a solid collegiate career blocking for Vince Young.
In Detroit, the life of a lineman was maddening. Scott said the communication breakdowns between the offensive coordinator and his offensive line coach ran rampant. One told him to step left on a play, the other said to step right.
"So which one do I do?" Scott said. "If I don't it the offensive line way, I won't be able to play. If I don't do it the offensive coordinator's way then I'll never get on the field. There were always situations like that."
Chaotic fragmentation. The shoddy separation of powers triggered on-field breakdowns. Scott said the linemen became "chickens with their heads cut off." Who was supposed to block where was a play-to-play mystery.
"You can sense frustration throughout the entire team," Scott said. "Cancer is a disease and negative energy can be transmitted easily from one player to the next and one coach to the next. I've witnessed situations where coaches aren't on the same page. So when you try to change all that negative energy and do a 180 on game day, your chances aren't that great."
Scott praises Buffalo's coaches for being the antithesis of Detroit's chaotic bureaucracy. Basic nuances of the offense are linked in a clear hierarchy. At one recent practice, Scott was unsure how to block a certain play. He asked position coach Sean Kugler for the answer. Kugler was unsure. Rather than haphazardly give Scott a knee-jerk answer (as Detroit coaches did), Kugler asked Turk Schonert for the answer.
It relayed back to Scott and the installations continued. Night and day compared to the Lions.
"The offensive line coach is on the exact same page as the coordinator, the coordinator is on the exact same page as the running back coach and the running back coach is on the exact same page as the head coach," Scott said. "All of the coaches are saying the exact same things when it comes to assignments."
Langston Walker and Brad Butler are penciled in as Buffalo's two starting offensive tackles for now, but shuffling and reshuffling is often inevitable. Injuries and production fluctuate at an unpredictable pace along the Bills' offensive line. So the towering, 6-foot-6, 318-pound Scott definitely has an open opportunity to crack the Bills' rotation. To differentiate from the pack, Scott is studying beyond his personal duties.
Scott has been stuck on some bad Lions teams in his young career.
He's learning where Trent Edwards tends to drift in the pocket so he can instinctively slide into the proper real estate. He's learning which receivers run which routes and which backs bounce which direction.
In short, a broad understanding of the Bills' offense. Because in Buffalo — unlike Detroit —the offense functions in unison, Scott said. It's the Buffalo Philharmonic, instead of General Motors.
If a starter goes down at any position, Scott wants to be the one on speed dial.
"I want to be in a situation where they can say, ‘Let's put Jon in. He can handle it,'" Scott said. "If guys get hurt, I hope they have faith in me to put me in at center, guard or tackle."
The Bills had multiple opportunities to draft a top-rated tackle in April's draft. Eben Britton in the first. William Beatty in the second. Jamon Meredith in the fourth. Talented, agile left tackles trickled to Russ Brandon throughout draft weekend.
No thank you. Instead, the front office loaded up at guard — wise overkill to prepare for the vicious 3-4 defenses in the AFC East. The flip side of this theory is that underdogs like Scott get an unexpected green light. More eyeballs will be focused on Scott. After a delayed arrival to Buffalo, he can finally breathe a sigh of relief. He's out of Detroit, out of misery.
"(In Detroit), if you pleased one person, you'd piss off the next," Scott said.
And seeing the Bills coast through the draft without a pinch of panic to take an offensive tackle is encouraging. Finally, Scott feels he has an opportunity to cash the check on his potential.
"(The draft) definitely gives a gleam of hope that they want us to compete for that spot," Scott said. "I just want the chance. I'm not looking for any handouts."