Ravens' Scott Has Earned His Raise

bart scott - baltimore ravens
"It was $329 after taxes, and I think 60 cents," Bart Scott says of his first NFL signing bonus. "I was talking to my agent so much about what was going on, that all I could do was pay my phone bill with it. I didn't even get to spend it on nothing fun." (Chris Gardner - AP)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

OWINGS MILLS, Md., Aug. 22 -- The player who would become the starting right-side linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens came cheap when the team signed him as an undrafted rookie four years ago. Bart Scott received a signing bonus of exactly $500.

"It was $329 after taxes, and I think 60 cents," Scott said. "I was talking to my agent so much about what was going on, that all I could do was pay my phone bill with it. I didn't even get to spend it on nothing fun."

It cost the Ravens considerably more to keep him in Baltimore for this season. When linebacker Ray Lewis went down with a season-ending hamstring injury in the sixth game last year, it was Scott -- who had zero career starts and 19 career tackles -- who stepped in for the seven-time Pro Bowl selection. Scott wound up being one of the Ravens' most consistent defensive performers and finished the season with 119 tackles (second on the team) and four sacks.

"I'm glad it ended up that way, as opposed to, 'Hey, this guy is a bum, and he's been hiding, being a backup for four years, and now he's exposed,' " said Scott, who signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract during the offseason that included $6.5 million in bonus money. "I'm glad I exposed myself in a good way."

Now in his fifth season with Baltimore, Scott, who is 6 feet 2 and 240 pounds, is a full-time starter playing alongside Lewis. The Ravens love his aggressiveness and athleticism, along with his versatility.

"He hits like a ton of bricks," linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald said. "He and Ray Lewis should be a fabulous combo this year because they both have their own personality, but together, when they step on the field, they mean business. Those guys have a tremendous, fierce attitude when they step on the field on game day, and I love it. It strengthens our group, and it's what we're about -- being physical and attacking."

Scott was an unrestricted free agent during the offseason, and he lined up visits with eight teams. The Cleveland Browns reportedly offered him a five-year deal worth $25 million.

It was a different situation when he was coming out of Southern Illinois in 2002. The Ravens were the only team that attended Scott's on-campus workout prior to the draft, and they were the only team to offer him a contract after he went undrafted.

Scott was thrown in with the starting defense at his first minicamp because some veterans were absent, and he wasn't overwhelmed. He made the team, primarily on the strength of his skills as a special teams player, but he also realized he had work to do if he was going to become more than that. Yes, he was an all-conference player in college, but it was the Gateway Conference in Division I-AA. He played for three defensive coordinators, and each had an idea of how Scott should be used, so he played everything from safety to linebacker to defensive end.

It wasn't until he got to Baltimore that he was able to settle in and learn how to be just a linebacker. The Ravens gave him a chance, and they gave him direction, but the most important thing they gave Scott was time to learn.

"They groomed me," Scott said. "I was lucky to come to a place that nurtured me, that was patient with me and that gave me time to grow. I could've gone to another place where they would've given me a year or so and drafted some big-time guy out of college. The name of the game is, if you give some guy a lot of money out of college, you've got to play him. I could've got stuck behind that eight ball."

He didn't, and now he's one of the Ravens' longest-tenured defensive players; only Lewis (11th season), cornerback Chris McAlister (eighth), linebacker-defensive end Adalius Thomas (seventh) and nose tackle Kelly Gregg (sixth) have been with the team longer.

Scott always has been one of the most affable and well-liked players on the team, in spite of the fact that he talks. Constantly. He has a range of interests and opinions on everything, from pro wrestling to his beloved Detroit Pistons to President Bush's oil policy.

When Scott was in middle school, his father, Bartholomew, made him read about Hannibal -- the military commander who crossed the Pyrenees and Alps with his army and his elephants, not the cannibal psychiatrist -- and then quizzed him on it. Scott completed his degree in economics last year, which helps explain why one of the last books he read was Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations." No topic is off-limits with Scott.

"He overloads his brain with lots of garbage," said fellow linebacker Gary Stills, who has the locker next to Scott's. "The only time he doesn't talk is when he eats. And then he growls."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company