Ravens' Scott plays Game, Life at High Volume

Ravens' Scott plays Game, Life at High Volume

Aaron Wilson's profile of the edgy LB known as the "Mad Backer"

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The split personality of the so-called "Mad Backer" spawned in rapper Eminem's neck of the woods is spitting fire again. 

He's expounding about everything from Wall Street blue-chip stock trends to crisis strategies in Iraq

This is the relatively calm and reasoned side of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Bart Scott, an articulate economics graduate who doubles as the comical and occasionally cruel man who haunts his opponents with threats, humor and a go-for-the-throat approach.

There's also the gentle soul from inner-city Detroit who patiently lectures schoolchildren about the scourges of drugs and violence. That's the married family man whose father, Bartholomew Sr., made him read about Hannibal, quizzing his son about the military commander's adventures with his soldiers and elephants in the Pyrenees and Alps

Whether it's debating staunch Republican offensive tackle Tony Pashos about oil policies in the Middle East, pro wrestling or music, it's non-stop chatter from Scott.

He's the hard-hitting football player teammates dubbed the "Mad Backer" because of his constant trash-talking and cursing on the field. A typical commentary from Scott is an unrealized threat to choke someone until their head pops off their body.

"He plays recklessly with a real chip on his shoulder, and you can't act like that all the time so there has to be a balance," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "If you are going to play like you're going to rip somebody's head off, you can't act like that in the locker room.

"So, he has two polar sides -- the nasty end comes out on gameday which is good -- and the good end is out anytime else."

Wearing a different color jersey automatically brands you as Scott's enemy. Just ask retired Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.

Scott once drew a line in the dirt and dared Bettis to cross it, instigating a confrontation that led to the Steelers trying to fool Scott with a play-action fake. He wound up sacking the quarterback.

"I told him to stop running around me and bring his fat [butt] here because I wanted to see what ‘The Bus' feels like," Scott said.

Scott insulted Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward because of his heritage, calling him "Soy Sauce." Ward still hasn't forgiven him.

During the Ravens' recent rout over the Raiders, Scott argued with another mouthy defender: Oakland defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

"We got into it and he kept asking me who the hell I was," Scott said. "I said, Scott, [expletive]! I can give as good as I can get."

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson tried to defuse a tense situation with humor last season after he tried to block Scott and bounced off.

"I told him I don't play that," Scott said. "He tried to be friendly. I told him if you want some beef, you got the right one."

Scott isn't maniacal, bi-polar or crazy in any way.

He's calculating. He's angry. And he's determined to prove that he belongs in the NFL.

He'll never forget how he was ignored in the draft four years ago, or how the Ravens were the only team that attended his workout at Division I-AA Southern Illinois. Scott received a $500 signing bonus that added up to about $329.60 after Uncle Sam took his cut.

There's a self-motivational bent to Scott's methods, which could easily be mistaken for madness at first glance.

"Bart talks a lot, but he also has a little bit of a temperament," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "As long as we can control it and not get any penalties, we'll be all right. Otherwise, I say let the beast loose and let him do what he does."

Because of how capably Scott performed during seven-time All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis' absence last season with a hamstring injury, registering a career-high 119 tackles and four sacks, the Ravens invested a three-year, $13.5 million contract in him last spring that included a $6.5 million signing bonus.

"I want to be recognized as one of the top linebackers," Scott said. "I didn't want to just be a special-teams player or a career backup. Nobody dreams about that. You envision yourself making a tackle on 4th-and-1 to win the Super Bowl."

The chip on Scott's shoulder, heck, call it a Redwood tree, stems from his background in inner-city Detroit.

Scott said he didn't live in the projects, but did grow up in a dangerous neighborhood where people were periodically shot and killed.

"It was crazy rough, and I didn't realize how rough it was until I left and saw how other people lived," Scott said. "I was kind of sheltered where I had people to walk to the store with. My older sisters had protection. 

"I had to fight bullies and do things I didn't want to do. When I was by myself, I had to take precautions."

Scott rarely left the field at Southeastern High School, a refuge from gang violence where he emerged as an all-state linebacker.

Athletic conditions were far from ideal. With a 26-player roster, everyone had to play both ways.

"I went to one of the worst high schools in Detroit, so you had to be a dog," Scott said. "You never left the field and you didn't back down from anybody. In the Midwest, we played hard-nosed, smash-mouth Michigan football.

"That's where the smack talking comes from. You take pride in your neighborhood. There were OG's [original gangsters] taking bets on the games. It was wild."

Scott earned a scholarship to Southern Illinois in Edwardsville -- home of the Salukis -- and made the all-conference team.

He was an obscure prospect, partly because he competed in the Gateway Conference and also because he played for three defensive coordinators who moved him around from safety to linebacker to defensive end.

There was also a six-game suspension as a junior for eating an apple. Well, sort of.

"My defensive coordinator came in at halftime, throwing Gatorade around and he said I didn't look like I was ready to play because I was eating an apple," Scott said. "He got upset with me and things escalated. It went from being player-coach to man-to-man and what happens when people argue.

"I think that was the single most important thing that ever happened to me in my career because it made me realize just how fragile a football career is."

Shortly after joining the Ravens on former scout T.J. McCreight's recommendation, Scott was thrown in with the starters at a minicamp because a few veterans were absent.

He wasn't lost in his new environment, eventually creating a niche on special teams and as a dime linebacker proficient in pass coverage. He didn't start a game until last season.

"There's a part of me that will always think of myself as a ‘Slap,' a guy nobody wanted," Scott said. "Nobody ever gave me credit, so I had to promote myself and prove myself. Now, I think people get the point that I can play a little bit, but I still have more to prove."

Apparently not to the Cleveland Browns, though.

They were so enamored of Scott's potential that they offered him a five-year, $25 million contract to leave Baltimore.

He closed the deal with the Ravens in an unusual setting. He was on a visit at the Browns' headquarters when he got the call from his agent that Baltimore had raised its offer, making a hasty escape to the Cleveland airport.

"We were really encouraged and enthused about Bart coming in because Phil Savage has a little knowledge of him," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "I think we came close to being able to sell him that this was the place, but they realized his importance and decided to keep him."

Now, the Ravens (2-0) are undefeated heading into today's game against the Browns (0-2). Through two games, Scott leads the Ravens with three sacks and is tied for third with 14 tackles.

"It looks like I made a great decision," Scott said. "It was so flattering because people are actually bidding for you.

"At the end, I thought back to how the Ravens were the only team that gave me the respect to come to my pro day. To turn my back on them would say a lot about my character and as a man. I'm ecstatic here."

At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Scott is building a reputation as a complete linebacker capable of shutting down the run with his aggressive, physical nature or matching quickness and wits with receivers and tight ends.

"Bart is one of those guys who has one dial-up, and that is finding the football," Lewis said. "He's always hungry to play football, and it's really a pleasure to play beside him because he's the energizer bunny."

Added defensive coordinator Rex Ryan: "Bart is an ascending player who's only going to get better. He backs up his words, and that's the key."

There's little chance of Scott being overlooked again.

Not with his reckless abandon and productivity on the field, or his stream of consciousness rants.

"I used to show my mom the marks on my helmet growing up," Scott said. "I'm sure there might be somebody out there that's tougher than me, but I've yet to meet him."

NOTE: Tight end Todd Heap was added to the Ravens' injury report Saturday with a questionable listing. He sprained his ankle while stretching.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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