Jets' Bart Scott understands NFL salary cap reality
Bart Scott knows his time may be coming to an end.
Hours after the Giants announced they had cut ties with running back Ahmad Bradshaw and defensive tackle Chris Canty -- two key contributors to their 2011 Super Bowl run -- Scott was discussing his own future in New York.
With each passing day, the Jets linebacker inches closer to an inevitable crossroad that pits the financial reality of the NFL against his value as a veteran leader and playmaker. Scott, 32, who signed a six-year, $48-million contract to join the Jets in 2009, is set to make $6.9 million in base salary in 2013 and 2014. And he knows the Jets -- a team hamstrung with a bloated salary cap next season -- can't afford to pay him what he's owed.
"It's part of the business," Scott told Newsday by phone Wednesday night. "If you've been in the business long enough, I mean -- C'mon. Jerry Rice and Joe Montana got cut. If they can get cut, with what they meant to their organization, who can't?"
For more than a decade, Montana was the face of the 49ers and won four Super Bowls. But when injury opened the door for quarterback Steve Young, Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993. Years later, because of salary constraints, the Niners offered Rice -- arguably the best wide receiver in NFL history -- a $1 million bonus to retire. Rice chose to sign with Oakland instead.
The end of Scott's run with the Jets, however, won't be so startling.
The inside linebacker was far less effective in 2012 due to a big toe injury suffered in Week 3. Scott finished the season with 60 tackles, his lowest total since 2004, and saw his streak of 119 consecutive games) fifth-longest among active linebackers -- snapped in Week 8.
He underwent reconstructive surgery on Jan. 18 to repair the two ligaments that had ripped off the bone. Scott said the procedure also entailed shaving the bone in order to straighten it out "because it had curled up."
"If you look at an X-ray of my toe, I've got a hole in my toe," said Scott, who flew back to North Carolina on Tuesday to have his stitches removed.
Scott, who's maneuvering around his house with the aid of a scooter, said he'll be cleared to be in a boot next week. After walking on his foot for another week, he expects to be cleared "to run a little."
Unhappy that his role had been reduced in 2011, Scott returned last offseason in better shape and more determined than ever to be a key contributor. But because of diminishing speed from age and the toe injury, he often was viewed as a liability on the field.
"Normally I'd like to keep Bart out there, but if he can't change direction in space like he normally can, then we've got to do what we think is best for the football team," Jets coach Rex Ryan said during the season.
Though Scott called it "a major injury" that contributed to the retirements of several NFL players, including Deion Sanders and 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Jonathan Ogden, the linebacker isn't worried about being healthy next season.
He played through pain for his teammates, he said, not for the Jets organization. And he wouldn't hesitate to do it again.
"You don't play 119 games straight because you haven't been hurt," he said. "You play with those injuries because you're willing to sacrifice your career for your teammates. A lot of guys wouldn't. Me? I consider my teammates family.
"If you ask any of my teammates, 'Do we need Bart?' or 'Is Bart good for us?' I'm sure they'd say yes. But if you ask everybody in the organization, they may say: 'You know what? It may be time to move on.' "
Days before the Baltimore Ravens hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in Sunday's Super Bowl, his former teammate Terrell Suggs tweeted a photo of a fan sporting a Bart Scott Ravens jersey in New Orleans. "You may be a JET, but you'll always be a RAVEN!" Suggs wrote.
After playing seven years in Baltimore, the feeling is mutual, said Scott.
"Why wouldn't I love to go back to Baltimore? That was home," the linebacker said, when asked if he'd be open to returning to the Ravens. "You never know where you might find me. We'll see what happens. The New York media may not appreciate me, but if it happens, we'll see who does."
He admitted it was tough watching the Super Bowl, but he was happy for his former teammates and friends because "I know how hard we had worked and how close we had gotten. I say 'we' cause I was there with them for several years and I was a part of those hard losses. So it was good to see the ball finally bounce their way."
Scott, of course, has his sights set on winning his own Super Bowl ring. But it likely won't happen with the Jets.
"What player is going to tell you he's not worth what he signed up for? I entered into a contract. Of course I'm worth it. Do I recognize that I may have to be viewed differently than I was viewed when I first got here? Yeah.
"Everybody doesn't get the best set of cards, but it's how you play with the cards you get," Scott said. "Now, if they want to deal me in, I'm all in."