- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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The quintessential Bart Scott moment from training camp occurred in one of the New York Jets' early practices. Watching from the sideline, the loquacious linebacker unleashed a trash-talking filibuster, picking on Greg McElroy.
Scott was all over the former Alabama quarterback, who was struggling that day, reminding him he didn't have his old star receiver from college, Julio Jones, to bail him out anymore. Everybody laughed.
A couple of minutes later, Scott shut his mouth long enough to rag-doll Shonn Greene on an outside run. That, of course, prompted more jawing from Scott.
Yes, Scott has rediscovered his bark -- and he expects his bite to follow. After a disappointing season, he's predicting a career year.
"I think I can be the best I've ever been," he said.
Scott's best year came in 2006, when he started alongside Ray Lewis on a Baltimore Ravens defense that some believe was better than the famous 2000 unit. Mention that year to Scott, and he spits back these numbers: 135 tackles, 9.5 sacks and two interceptions, his individual totals from his only Pro Bowl season.
Those numbers, he believes, are within reach at the not-so-tender age of 32.
"Why wouldn't I have high expectations for myself?" he asked.
Well, because a lot of folks thought he was a goner after last season. Scott played poorly, lost playing time and, according to coaches, let it affect his attitude.
When the year was over, Scott -- aka the Madbacker -- made a mad dash out of the locker room, flipping off photographers. The obscene gesture cost him $10,000. The season cost him more.
It cost him his reputation as one of the Jets' defensive leaders.
"I think he was embarrassed at the end of the year," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "It's that competitive fire; Bart doesn't want to lose. He's a prideful guy. He knows he's on the down slope of his career as far as number of years in the league, and he didn't want last year to be an indication of who he is as a player."
Scott had gained weight and had lost a step or two, prompting the coaches to pull him on passing downs. In three seasons with the Jets, his playing time went from 1,001 snaps in 2009, to 903 in 2010, to 677 in 2011, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
He wasn't happy, and it showed. His gregarious personality disappeared. A silent Scott is akin to a chatty pantomime -- incongruous.
The Jets looked into the possibility of trading him, but with a $4.2 million salary guarantee for 2012, that was virtually impossible. So Scott met with Pettine and Rex Ryan to discuss his role, deciding to reinvent himself.
Scott trained like a mad man (or a Madbacker), shedding 13 pounds to 235. He worked out with younger players in the offseason, including nose tackle Kenrick Ellis, trying to show them the way -- and maybe benefiting from their youthful enthusiasm. He was terrific in the preseason.
"I think he's poised to do it," said Pettine, referring to Scott's career-year declaration. "He's turned back the clock. He's the Bart we had early on in Baltimore -- the attitude, the energy, the intangibles. He's been great in the meeting rooms with the young guys."
When Bart is Bart, he's brings a lot of intangibles to the Jets' defense, namely a bad-ass attitude. Nose tackle Sione Po'uha said Scott has "right-pocket swagger. He looks like he could reach into his right pocket and pull out a short pistol. He's our short pistol."
When Bart is Bart, it's loud. Everywhere. He puts on a show in the locker room, cracking up teammates, and he annoys the hell out of opponents, constantly yapping during games.
"Bart's a talker," said safety Yeremiah Bell, who faced Scott for many years as a member of the Miami Dolphins. "Anytime you're on the opposing team, that's a guy you hate because he's talking the most. You might find guys who talk here and there, but Bart talks all day. As an opposing player, that gets under your skin."
Scott won't be a 1,000-snap player like he was a few years ago, but he will be more involved than last season, according to Pettine. He will play in certain sub packages on passing downs; he's still an effective blitzer (4.5 sacks last season, the second-best total in his career).
Even the casual observer can see that Scott has trimmed down and looks faster. Whether he can turn back the calendar to 2006 remains to be seen; the Jets would be happy with 2009, when he played the game as well as he talked it.
"I don't have a noise meter or a confidence meter," Po'uha said. "All I know is, the old Bart is back."
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