Bryan Scott is 28 years old. He admits age is starting to catch up to him. His body doesn’t shake off injuries like it used to. No problem. He just grinds a little harder. He just exhausts every possible option to rehab his high ankle sprain.
Every morning, Scott wakes up at 5:45 and trucks to the training room. And the cycle begins. Icing, stretching, exercising, pool workouts, microtherarpy, the hyperbaric chamber, anything to repair his deflated wheel.
“You name it, it’s everything,” Scott told BuffaloFootballReport.com. “I’m doing everything in my power to get back,” Scott said.
Scott represents a glimmer of good news in Buffalo. The defense is getting healthier. Both Donte Whitner (thumb) and Paul Posluszny (arm) returned to the practice field Wednesday. Scott isn’t quite sure when he’ll be green-lighted too, but his cap figures to be three weeks. If not, he may be on high alert.
“If I don’t get back before the bye week, I might go into a state of depression,” Scott laughed.
For Scott, this is a critical year. He has enjoyed a career rebirth in Buffalo. After being released by the New Orleans Saints two years ago, Scott latched on with the Bills and hasn’t looked back. A rock in run support and physical in coverage, Scott has emerged as one of the defense’s go-to leaders.
Watching Buffalo’s defense get gashed hasn’t been easy. The losses are adding up. Time is of the essence. Scott wants to play ASAP. High ankle sprains typically take time to heal, sometimes up to a month. Scott hasn’t targeted a return date yet, but the progress has been steady.
In the starters’ absence, backups Jairus Byrd and George Wilson have filled in admirably. But for Buffalo’s rush defense to do a 180, the key may be getting Whitner and Scott back. Both serve as a dangerous fourth linebacker, unafraid to nose into scrums.
“Playing next to Donte, we’re interchangeable,” Scott said. “One play I can be down in the box and the next play, Donte’s down. This is the first time in my career that I’ve had a lot of continuity. Being in the same system for three years really helps.”
Scott will be a free agent in the spring, possibly in line for a multi-million contract. Last season, Scott reproved himself as a reliable 16-game starter. Routinely battling opposing team’s tight ends in pass coverage, he also finished with 69 tackles. On a unit full of question marks, Scott is an answer. By all accounts, he’s a commodity the Bills cannot afford to lose. Rebuilding or not.
Of course, Buffalo drafted Byrd in the second round of last April’s draft presumably to start at some point. With Scott creeping toward his 30s, hints abound. Rather than view Byrd as the pesky co-worker trying to steal his job, Scott has been a big brother.
He relates to Byrd unlike any other player. He sees himself in him. Byrd is a quiet, introverted player that doesn’t respond to negative feedback well, Scott said.
So early on in camp, Scott pulled Byrd aside.
“I said, ‘Don’t let anyone or anything change who you are. Take what you can from it and keep moving,’” Scott recalled. “That goes a long way because I actually struggled with that my rookie year — going through that learning curve and feeling like you could do no right.”
Obviously, Buffalo is no hurry to mainstream Byrd into its defense. He’s still raw, still trying to catch up physically. Scott, on the other hand, has been through the ringer. He started three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons before being traded to the Saints for Mike Gandy. After one season in the Big Easy, Scott was released in training camp — never good timing for a veteran. Such a late cut tends to signal a long wait on the sofa for vets.
Scott remembers sitting at home during Week One of the 2007 NFL season at the metaphorical, yet stinging career crossroads. For a few days, he couldn’t help but wonder. Was this it? Four years and a cloud of dust? Scott began contemplating if he’d need to find a new profession. He knew he had no other choice.
“I knew the NFL didn’t last forever,” Scott said. “I was thinking what if this is the end? I got that call from Buffalo and I haven’t really looked back.
“The league is so funny. You need to find that right fit. Definitely in Buffalo with such a great organization from the front office to the coaching staff to the players, I would not want to be anywhere else. I’m really comfortable in the scheme and just really enjoying it.”
Scott hopes to stay in Buffalo beyond this season. He wants to be a part of a revivial, the day when this decade-long playoff-less streak ends.
“It’s a first-class place,” Scott said. “I know there has been a string of bad luck in the past but it has such rich tradition, I know that this thing will get turned around. I want to be a part of that.”
For now, he must stomach weekly low points from the sideline. Probably for at least one more week. It wasn’t easy seeing the Miami Dolphins’ Wildcat blister Buffalo for 250 rushing yards a couple weeks ago. Scott said the sinking feeling gave him a bad taste in his mouth.
Ironically, Scott and Whitner suffered their injuries on the same play. Scott converged on a New Orleans running back from one side and Whitner from the other. At the crash, Scott injured his ankle and Whitner hurt his thumb for a vivious double whammy. This was somewhat new. Scott hasn’t turned his ankles at all since high school, a good 10-plus years ago.
While Whitner has returned, Scott hopes to follow suit soon. He vows the season is far from lost. A marathon, not a sprint, he said. There’s still time to right the ship.
“The confidence has always been there,” Scott said. “Every week is just about trying to improve and trying to get better. We don’t doubt the coaches. We don’t doubt the front office. We know there are going to be naysayers. We are just trying to come out on top.”
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