Bart Scott now says Jets fans have the right to be critical

Bart Scott follows the action during a game

Bart Scott follows the action during a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 22, 2012) (Credit: Getty)

Bart Scott may have been slowed by his big toe, but he had no issues backpedaling Thursday afternoon.

Although the outspoken linebacker chose not to offer an apology per se for his recent statements about Jets fans, he acknowledged their right to be critical.

"It's freedom of speech," he said. "You can say what you want, as long as no one gets physical or puts their hands on you. I understand."

Scott, however, wasn't nearly as understanding Wednesday when asked about a recent video clip of MetLife Stadium spectators hurling profanities at players at halftime of a 49-19 loss to New England last week.

In separate interviews, Scott ripped fans for being ignorant of the pressures and pain associated with NFL life.

"They don't care," he told Newsday. "They couldn't make it through my high school practice, so why explain it?''

He also told the Daily News: "The person yelling at you probably was picked last in dodgeball all through high school. So do you care about the opinion of them? No."

His coach, however, took umbrage at Scott's reaction.

"What I mentioned to Bart is, you have to appreciate the fans," Rex Ryan said. "The things that make this game so great is the players and the fans. And that's the truth. Obviously, there's frustrations in the fact that we never accomplished what we wanted to do in that game and the fans let us have it, and they've got every right to.

"But you've got to appreciate our fans. Obviously, in the good times, it's much easier than in the bad times."

Scott downplayed his remarks Thursday.

"I was asked a question about some video, which I have no idea 'cause I didn't hear it," said Scott, who has been dealing with a hyperextended toe for most of the season. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for fans and what they do and the sacrifice that they make. And I'm aware of that.

" . . . Of course, I'm going to protect my team and protect my organization. But I understand they paid good money. I'm well aware of that."

Unfilled expectations often breed contempt. But the lines between athletes and fans have become blurred in this social media-driven society.

"I guess that's what we sign up for," said Scott, who mentioned the incident of fans throwing garbage on the front lawn of former Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox. "When we do that, we're public figures and we open ourselves up to the criticism. It comes with the territory. It's fine."

Reminded of his sweeping statements about out-of-shape and dodgeball-deficient fans, he said: "That's a generalization. I'm sure there are some great athletes. [That was] me being defensive, protecting my teammates.''

Ryan defended Scott's playing ability ("Trust me, Bart can cover still") and his locker-room leadership.But he couldn't excuse Scott's rant about fans.

"I learned from it," Ryan said, referring to his $50,000 and $75,000 league fines for cursing and using an obscene gesture toward fans the past two years. " . . . Obviously, I made a huge mistake there. I hope I wasn't the only one that learned from it.''

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