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Late-night visit from coaches helped sway LB Scott to Jets

NEW YORK -- Just a few minutes past midnight last Friday morning, Bart Scott's phone rang and his two dogs started barking.

The former Baltimore Ravens linebacker had some unexpected visitors sitting in a car in his driveway: New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and secondary coach Dennis Thurman.

"I thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world," the Jets' new linebacker recalled with a laugh Monday. "I am happy that they did not get out of the car and get bit by my dogs. When I heard my dogs barking, I thought they were out chasing deer or something. When Coach Thurman called me and said, 'Come on out, man, and get these dogs,' it was the funniest thing in the world."

The three Jets coaches were on a late-night recruiting trip to Scott's home in Owings Mills, Md., just as the NFL's free-agency period began. Ryan, Scott's former defensive coordinator with the Ravens, made it clear he wanted the linebacker to be the centerpiece of New York's defense.

"To be able to have the opportunity to kind of move from the passenger's seat to the driver's seat is very flattering, and it comes with a great sense of responsibility," Scott said. "I'm ready to take on the challenge."

The Jets opened their wallets for the imposing 28-year-old linebacker, signing him to a six-year, $48 million contract later that day.

"They did their due diligence, and it was very refreshing," Scott said. "They really showed me that they were serious about getting me and they weren't letting me go anywhere."

After going up to the Jets' training facility in Florham Park, N.J., on Friday morning, Scott never had any doubts he'd sign with New York despite reports of a bidding war with Baltimore.

"I was getting calls from my wife, and she was stressed out, saying that she's packing, she's unpacking, what's going on?" Scott said. "I let her know that it was a done deal, and everything was fine. It was an urban legend."

Scott, nicknamed "The Mad Backer" for his confident and aggressive style on the field, ranked second on the Ravens in tackles last season and will join promising David Harris as speedy, playmaking linebackers in the Jets' 3-4 defensive scheme.

"We won't back down from anybody," Scott said. "We won't take a step back from anybody. You guys can expect to see a very physical, violent defense. I don't know if this division has ever seen a violent defense. It's one thing to make a tackle, it's another thing to be violent. Violence makes guys stay on the sideline when they get hit."

Scott said his main priority in finding a team was going somewhere he could play the same type of intense defense that he did in Baltimore.

"I made no bones about it that I wanted to stay in Baltimore and that Baltimore would be given an opportunity before free agency even hit to get something wrapped up," he said. "I look at New York as Baltimore because I'm so familiar with the coaching staff, but I was partial to Baltimore because that's the only place I'd known. But if I had to leave, New York was high on my list."

Signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Illinois in 2002, Scott also showed off a little bit of his knowledge of Jets history.

"What better place for the underdog than the original underdog from Super Bowl III?" Scott said.

Scott was a major part of a Ravens defense that ranked No. 2 overall and helped Baltimore reach the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He said he's actively recruiting former teammates Jim Leonhard and Corey Ivy, free-agent defensive backs who have visited with New York.

"Trust me, when Rex left, a lot of guys wanted to come with him," Scott said. "We played last year to get Rex a head-coaching job. That was one of the goals on the defensive side: Let's play so good that they have no choice but to recognize our defense and recognize the man that's pulling the trigger."

After playing mainly as a backup and on special teams, Scott saw significant playing time during his fourth season at middle linebacker when Ray Lewis was injured. Scott played in the Pro Bowl the following season after he registered a career-high 9.5 sacks and two interceptions. But in announcing the signing Friday night, Ryan said people have only seen "the tip of the iceberg" of what Scott can accomplish.

"I feel like I'm putting it all together and rounding it out," Scott said. "I look forward to this year being able to put it all together and take the next step."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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