Mad Backer is back with a vengeance

WESTMINSTER -- Bart Scott launched himself like a human weapon, inflicting so much force on running back Ray Rice that he popped off the rookie's helmet. Scott celebrated the intimidating tackle Monday morning by picking up Rice's helmet and tossing it downfield. The illegal action triggered a penalty from the NFL officials visiting McDaniel College, and sent Rice searching for his headgear.

At least, Scott didn't hurl the yellow flag into the stands as he did during the final minutes of a controversial loss last season to the New England Patriots marred by confrontations with officials that led to fines for Scott and several of his teammates.

One year removed from a disappointing season where his impact was curtailed significantly, the former Pro Bowl linebacker arrived in Westminster in an angry, determined mood.

"I'm pissed off," Scott said. "I could try to fake like I'm all happy and stuff. I'm ready to really make some people pay.

"I'm ready to put some pain on people. I'm tired of talking about it. I just want to line up against somebody and make them feel what we had to feel last year and stomp 'em out." Known as the "Mad Backer," Scott has the personality of a hard-hitting, trash-talking athlete who brings the edge of his inner-city Detroit upbringing with him onto the football field.

That aggressive mentality is contrasted by the easygoing off-field nature of an economics graduate who lectures children about the dangers of drugs and gangs. Scott is a family man whose father, Bartholomew Sr., encouraged a love for history, including the military exploits of Hannibal.

Scott is still frustrated about last season, and excited about the renewed emphasis of a defensive scheme he used to lead all NFL inside linebacker with 9 1/2 sacks two years ago.

Last year, Scott dropped to one sack as he wasn't involved nearly as much in the blitz package. He was also knocked off his feet on a vicious block from Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, one of his biggest rivals.

"Bart is hungry," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "He wants to be the best. Greg Mattison really broke down his game and studied it and he's getting back to doing the little things.

"When Bart is doing things right, he's as good as any linebacker in the league. I'm excited to see him flying around and being the explosive hitter that he is."

Scott wants to get back to his knockout style of 2006, which was punctuated by a tackle of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger regarded as the hit of the year in many NFL circles.

"I like everything about Bart," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I think the thing he's really committed to right now is becoming a more fundamentally sound football player."

Known for his colorful approach to football and public speaking, Scott has no intentions of changing. He's always going to wear his emotions on his sleeve.

"After sitting with my high-school coach, the guy who created this monster, he said I was way too nice, too political," Scott said. "So, I'm just going to go back to just choking the hell out of people and let the coaches calm me down."

Scott is completely recovered from a knee injury that sapped his strength and speed last year.

Entering his seventh NFL season, the former undrafted free agent from Southern Illinois has 404 career tackles, 14 1/2 sacks and three interceptions. He has registered 100 tackles for three consecutive seasons.

Last season, he took on the old pass-coverage responsibilities of New England Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas, who left Baltimore after the 2006 season. Playing in zone coverage, Scott's big plays dwindled.

"They didn't turn me loose," Scott said. "I like to talk trash, play hard and get after the quarterback."

The defense dipped to 32 sacks after posting 60 the previous year. Injuries to defensive end Trevor Pryce and cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle due to injuries were felt throughout a defense that also became too predictable.

Virtually every time Scott lined up at middle linebacker, offenses knew the former college safety was going to blitz.

"You don't replace a Chris McAlister or Samari Rolle with a Bart Scott in coverage," Scott said. "We just tried to put it all right on our shoulders. I think it slowed us down as far as being aggressive.

"I'm extremely pissed off, even more than ever. Teams didn't finish us. I guarantee if we get the opportunity, we're going to stomp them through the ground."

Scott is entering the final year of a $13.5 million contract that included a $6.5 million signing bonus. His agent said that the Ravens have expressed interest in drawing up a new deal, but nothing is imminent.

Plus, fellow linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs' deals are expiring after this year, too.

Scott has never forgotten that he entered the NFL as an obscure former Division I-AA player who received a $500 signing bonus and a shot to prove himself.

"I couldn't care less, I'm blessed," Scott said. "I'm an 18-round slappy. I am the people's champion.

"If we would have placed a bet, the odds probably would have been 100-1 that I would be the guy who could start and finish a long career with one team. I love the city, I embrace the town. I would love to finish here."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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