Back with a vengeance

The Baltimore Sun

Bart Scott is ready to rumble.

Yes, again.

The Ravens' self-proclaimed "Mad Backer" has become the Furious Backer in the aftermath of a gruesome, 5-11 season in 2007.

In a friendly exchange with the media this week, Scott issued these training camp warnings to this year's opponents:

* "I'm extremely [ticked] off, more than ever, because we were down and teams stomped on us a little bit, but they didn't finish us. I guarantee if we get the opportunity, we're going to stomp them into the ground."

* "I'm ready to get in and really make some people pay. I'm ready to put some pain on people. ... I just want to line up against somebody and make them feel what we had to feel last year and stomp them out."

Until the season starts, though, the pain apparently will stay in-house. In the past two days at McDaniel College, Scott, an inside linebacker, has delivered hits hard enough to knock the helmets off two running backs.

When he separated rookie runner Ray Rice from his helmet yesterday, Scott quickly retrieved it and tossed it downfield. It was reminiscent of last season, when Scott picked up an official's flag in frustration and heaved it into the stands in a December loss to the New England Patriots. That toss drew another Ravens penalty.

Yesterday's did, too, albeit from the crew of officials hired by the Ravens to call infractions during live drills.

Obviously, the 2007 season did not sit well with Scott, who turns 28 next month and is in the third year of a three-year contract extension he signed in 2006.

In what amounted to a soul-searching excursion, Scott went home to Detroit in the offseason to visit his high school coach.

"He said I was way too nice, too political," Scott said. "So I'm going to go back to just choking the hell out of people and let the coaches calm me down, or whatever."

First-year head coach John Harbaugh hasn't had to rein in Scott yet, but he has given him a clear direction.

"I like everything about Bart," Harbaugh said, grinning. "Bart has a lot of things working, and you like all of it. I think the thing he's really committed to right now is becoming a more fundamentally sound football player."

Fundamentals were one of the Ravens' casualties of last season, when injuries led to bigger breakdowns on defense. Scott was second on the team with 131 tackles, but his sacks dropped from 9 1/2 in 2006 to one. He didn't intercept a pass and had only three pass breakups.

Part of the problem was that instead of blitzing, he often dropped into coverage to help a depleted secondary. But he was too quick to make decisions, and it left the defense even more vulnerable.

"He's such an intelligent player, he kind of gets ahead of the first step and goes to steps two and three," linebackers coach Greg Mattison said. "That's what makes great players, the ones that can anticipate things happening.

"But there's a difference in anticipating it and ... doing it before you read your keys. That's what he has to get back in the realm of doing."

Because Scott played linebacker and safety at Southern Illinois, he has been used in coverage during his time in Baltimore.

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

What the Ravens want most from Scott this season is big plays and consistency. He has logged more than 100 tackles in each of the past three seasons since becoming a starter in 2005 and collected all his career 14 1/2 sacks.

Scott went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate after his breakout 2006 season. He's working to get back to that level.

"I see a guy willing to do what it's going to take to get back to the way he was two years ago," Mattison said. "He's bought into the coaching. The big thing he wants to continue to do is stay consistent ... play after play."

A good year should allow the seven-year veteran to finish his career in Baltimore after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2002. That's his goal.

But he would also like to have a big payday, like the one linebacker Terrell Suggs will get as the Ravens' franchise player this season. (Suggs, however, hasn't signed his tender and remains out of camp.)

Asked about playing in a contract year, Scott offered this: "I couldn't care less. ... I'm an 18th-round slappy. I'm just happy to be playing. I'm ecstatic that I get to come out here and do something that millions of people wish they could do."

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