Bart Scott was once a favorite of Jets fans with his hard hits, big plays and colorful comments.
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Now, they’re taking shots at each other.
The chatty linebacker has struggled with a hyperextended toe that has limited his production, and fans have made it clear that they’re not happy with the team’s 4-7 record. A video posted on Deadspin.com showed a group of angry fans screaming obscenities and insults at the players as they walked off the field at MetLife Stadium at halftime of the Jets’ game against the New England Patriots last Thursday night.
Scott, when asked about the video, told the Daily News that the harsh fans who yell at you were probably ”picked last in dodgeball all through high school.” He also told Newsday that they probably couldn’t make it through ”a high school practice.”
Well, coach Rex Ryan needed to set Scott straight Thursday.
”You’ve got to appreciate our fans,” Ryan said he told Scott. ”Obviously, in the good times it’s much easier than in the bad times, so I had that conversation with Bart.”
Blogs and sports talk radio have been hot the past few weeks with fans frustrated with Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, owner Woody Johnson and just about every player as the Jets appear headed to a second straight season without a playoff appearance.
”What I said I’ll stay behind: that our fans deserve better,” Ryan said. ”And I was the first guy that would say that. With us, what I mentioned to Bart, you have to appreciate the fans. The thing that makes this game so great is the players and the fans, and that’s the truth.”
Ryan is speaking from experience after he was fined $75,000 for cursing at a fan last season and received a $50,000 fine for making an obscene hand gesture to a fan at a mixed martial arts event in Florida in 2010.
”I learned from it and I think the team learned from it, we keep our heads down and go right in the locker room,” Ryan said. ”Obviously I made a huge mistake there. I hope I wasn’t the only one that learned from it. Just go in, and people are entitled to what they want to say.”
Scott didn’t apologize for his comments Thursday, but appeared to soften his stance.
”Of course, I’m going to protect my team and protect my organization, but I understand that they pay good money,” Scott said. ”I’m well aware of that. It’s freedom of speech. You can say what you want as long as nobody gets physical or puts their hands on you.”
Scott, obviously, isn’t OK with everything fans say or do, using the example of hearing about former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox once having garbage dumped on his lawn by fans. He also said he read that someone said he’d ”probably be unemployed on the streets” if he didn’t play football.
”I’d like to think that my economic degree would get me some type of job,” he said. ”There are certain perceptions about athletes whether they’re warranted or not. But I know what and who I am and I’m comfortable in my own skin.”
He also pointed out that many players often have their wives, children, family members and friends in the stands during games who are subjected to the negative comments.
”But I guess that’s what we sign up for,” he said. ”We’re public figures and we open ourselves up to criticism. That comes with the territory. That’s fine.”
Scott wanted to make it clear that the players are not in any way satisfied with losing, and they are just as disappointed by bad losses such as the one to the Patriots on national television.
”We didn’t put 40 hours of work coming in here and practicing, going through game plans,” he said, ”to go out there and embarrass ourselves and let our teammates down and our coaching staff down and let our city down.”
Scott later said his comments from the previous day were just him ”being defensive” and that fans know who he really is, pointing out the extensive charity work he does.
”You can’t judge somebody by the three hours that you see in shoulder pads and helmet,” he said.
Scott was regularly one of the Jets’ top tacklers during his first seasons with the Jets, but ranks seventh (44) this season with less playing time while dealing with his toe injury. Ryan raved about Scott’s leadership qualities and how he wants him to be healthy so he can play more often.
”The way he’s attacking the run and doing different things, Bart doesn’t hurt us,” Ryan said. ”Let’s put it this way: He helps us.”