By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 2007
OWINGS MILLS, Md., Sept. 6 -- Bart Scott is the latest Baltimore Ravens linebacker to find stardom in the NFL, a distinction that can be attributed not only to his hard hitting and aggressive play, but also his effusiveness both on and off the field.
He played in his first Pro Bowl last season and earned another honor Thursday: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson went after him in an interview. During a conference call with Baltimore area reporters, Johnson was asked to name the best trash-talker on the Ravens. He didn't hesitate in naming Scott.
"You know, when you see Bart, you tell him, 'You don't have to be so damn rude,' " said Johnson, himself a notorious talker. "I'm trying to talk to everybody, Bart's cussing me out, telling me to get back in my huddle. I'm just trying to make friends, man. That's it. No, I'm serious, Bart is mean. . . . And this year, if he try that again, I'm gonna hit him in the mouth."
Scott's response? "Oh, that's Chad. He's such a nice guy. He wouldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight."
The season opener between the AFC North rivals hardly needed any extra spice. The Ravens and Bengals are expected to be the top two teams in the division; Baltimore won a franchise-record 13 games last season and easily won the division, while Cincinnati finished a disappointing 8-8. Monday's game also is a chance for each team to showcase its strength on national television: Cincinnati's offense (which ranked eighth in total yards in the NFL in 2006) and Baltimore's defense (first in the NFL).
Since the 2003 season, the Ravens' defense has ranked in the top 10 in terms of fewest points allowed in the league (last year they were first, with an average of 12.6 per game). Over those 64 games, Baltimore has given up 30 or more points only seven times -- including twice to the Bengals.
Johnson, along with quarterback Carson Palmer, is the face of the Bengals' offense. For all his talking and fancy celebrations, Johnson is highly productive on the field: He has led the AFC in receiving yards in each of the past four seasons. In 12 career games against the Ravens, Johnson has 65 catches for 922 yards and six touchdowns.
"They might be the best two or three in the league right now," linebacker Ray Lewis said of Cincinnati's offense. "Definitely talent-wise on both outside receivers and their quarterback is a great, great talent. So it's a great challenge for us opening up the year."
Scott had a breakout season in 2006, tying for the team lead in tackles (103) and tying for third on the team in sacks (10). He also had two interceptions. In many ways, Scott is typical of Baltimore's defenders; he is versatile enough to line up in different spots on the field, and he hits with ferocity. He is one of seven starters who has earned Pro Bowl recognition; Lewis, linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive end Trevor Pryce, cornerback Chris McAlister, cornerback Samari Rolle and safety Ed Reed are the others.
"I really shouldn't be saying this, but this is one of the only games where I study 24-7 the defense because you don't know what you're going to get," Johnson said. "It's hard to game plan for something like the Ravens. They're the only ones that do what they do."
Johnson won't have to look for Scott, because he'll be able to hear him.
"I'm a nice guy," Scott said. "This MadBacker shirt [he was wearing] is actually an oxymoron. I'm actually the nice, happy backer. And whenever I see Chad, I'm always shooting him comments like: 'Nice gold. Hey, you look good in blond. Cool Mohawk. Gwen Stefani's Mohawk is nothing compared to yours.' All that good stuff."
Ravens Notes: The team agreed in principle to a one-year contract extension with backup quarterback Kyle Boller, who was due to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Baltimore was one of the teams that spoke with the agent of former Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich earlier in the week, but now the Ravens are set through next season with starter Steve McNair and Boller. . . .
Left tackle Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended big toe) practiced in full pads for the first time this season and said he is "cautiously optimistic" he will be able to play Monday.
Ogden was moving well during the portion of practice that was open to reporters and said the toe felt "okay, not great." . . .
Ogden, wide receiver Mark Clayton (ankle), Rolle (ankle), tight end Daniel Wilcox (ankle) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (ankle) missed portions of practice. Linebacker Gary Stills, one of the Ravens' top special teams players, did not practice because of a chest injury.