Bart Scott has never been the man you thought he was.
During a long and outstanding NFL career, he wasn't just the "can't wait" dude. He was something more. Something substantive. He was bright and forward-thinking, and that makes it no surprise what he's doing these days: working as an analyst for CBS and as a consultant for Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment, where he helps current players prepare for post-NFL financial challenges.
He was also opinionated and loquacious, and that leads us to something Scott said in a recent interview with Bleacher Report, an important, smart and vital opinion about Deflategate, the Patriots and the NFL's secret culture of cheating.
What Scott did was, in some ways, defend Tom Brady, whose appeal will be heard by Commissioner Roger Goodell starting Tuesday in New York.
Scott provided a little more context on the scope of cheating in the NFL. It's not just that there's cheating, he says. It's that there's cheating by even those perceived as being squeaky clean, all-time greats, Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers whom few would suspect of breaking the rules. Basically, Scott says, Brady is simply paying the price for what countless others have done.
Scott's credibility is unimpeachable. As a player, he was one of the most respected in the sport. He consistently battled some of the best offenses of his generation, playing for the Ravens from 2002 to 2008 (making the Pro Bowl in 2006) and the Jets from 2009 to 2012.
The Brady case is over deflated footballs. But that's obviously not the only form of cheating in the NFL. Scott pointed to sign-stealing as another form rampant during his career—with some of those sign-stealing players still playing today, some of them all-time greats. Scott would not name the players.
"Some teams are the biggest cheaters in the world," he said. "We played teams that were so good at stealing signs, we had to wear wristbands when we played them. I don't know how they stole them. I think they videotaped us, but I'm not sure. But they stole them.
"Some of the biggest stars you watch now—huge stars, biggest celebrities in the game—are big cheaters. They cheated more than anybody. They just weren't caught.
"I'm not going to name names, but go back and look at tape of when I was with the Ravens, and look at the teams we played when we wore wristbands. We only wore the wristbands against a few teams and those teams were huge cheaters."
Cheaters, Scott says, because these stars—again, some still in the league—repeatedly stole or attempted to steal signals.
To be clear, Scott wasn't trolling. He didn't seek out a platform to make accusations. My conversation with him was part of a larger one about what he's doing to help NFL players better manage their financial futures. Later in the conversation, I asked him about Deflategate, and as Scott will do, he answered the questions that were asked.
Because Scott wouldn't name names or teams, we can't assume too much. We can look through old Ravens games and find games where they wore wristbands, but that doesn't prove that those are the games he was referring to. And even if they are, just because the Ravens took precautions against a player or team, that doesn't necessarily mean the precautions were necessary, that the player or team was actually trying to steal signs.
(There's also the question if stealing signs is cheating or rather gamesmanship.)
Scott's words come at an interesting time in the Deflategate arc. Again, Brady's appeal is scheduled for Tuesday. Deflategate, in some ways, is a referendum on the integrity of football.
Brady is said to be looking for total exoneration, according to ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. It's unlikely he will get that at this stage of the appeals process. What happens next is entirely predictable. It's unlikely Brady will change his story. Despite the Wells report truthers, the NFL, rightfully so, believes in the Wells report.
Which means, in all likelihood, this case will head to court.
While I think the NFL was correct to investigate and punish the Patriots, and while I think the Ted Wells report was mostly on target, Scott's larger point is also true. It's likely cheating is rampant in the sport. We just usually don't see it.
Brady has another unusual pseudo-ally in the Ravens' locker room. One of Brady's biggest rivals, linebacker Terrell Suggs, told ESPN.com's Todd Karpovich that Deflategate doesn't tarnish Brady's legacy. Said Suggs:
The guy is a winner. He's won with whatever kind of personnel that he's had. So I don't think it really tarnished it. But you know, you need something to write about. Everybody needs something to write about and needs something to talk about. It's always something. I'm leaving that alone. They have people who handle that. I am going to stick to what we got to do here.
The sense I get from Scott and other players is that while they do think Brady cheated, they also know other players either cheat as well—or would do the same as Brady if they had the opportunity. These are my words, not theirs, but I think this is an accurate representation.
The NFL is a cheating league, and who gets prosecuted for cheating is often arbitrary. A lot of guys cheat, even the grandest of stars. It's not always who you think it is. It's not always a Brady or a Belichick. It can be the guy next door type, selling apple pie and lemonade while the cameras are on and stealing signals when the camera goes dark.
Again, with no names named, all we can do is guess which teams and players Scott was talking about. But if one of the players he's referring to is who I think it is, I had never previously heard anything even remotely cheating-ish associated with this player or his franchise at the time. But that's the point. Some cheaters cheat and are able to cover their tracks.
It would be incorrect to say that Scott is an ally of Brady's. Scott is simply truth-telling. Our conversation was actually about his new noble venture (more on that in a moment), but his thoughts on this and other topics were far too interesting to ignore.
When Scott spoke of Deflategate specifically, his remarks reflected likely what many players and coaches also believe.
"If someone told me, 'You can win a Super Bowl if you deflate some footballs,' then hell yes I'd do it," Scott said. "There isn't a single player in the league that wouldn't take the trade-off of losing draft picks and fines for a Super Bowl. I don't care if the fine is $20 million. It would be worth it. The money teams and players would make from memorabilia alone would make it worth it."
None of that will matter to Goodell in deciding Brady's fate. Nor should it. The Patriots have now been caught cheating twice. The past matters in cases like this.
I told you: Bart Scott isn't who you thought he was.
When he isn't making the Deflategate conversation more interesting, he does excellent work for CBS and is one of the best analysts out there because he's honest and possesses a sense of humor.
What he's doing for Morgan Stanley is equally impressive. Though there is varying statistical data, it's clear that a significant number of NFL players struggle with money, in their playing days and especially beyond.
Scott said there was a quarterback he played with who had money stolen by a financial adviser—and that that forced the quarterback to play three extra years to make the money back, even though he didn't want to play those extra years.
"Peyton [Manning] and Brady are just sitting on money," Scott said. "They're printing money. But that's not the majority of players.
"One of my main messages to younger players in particular is you don't have to buy the biggest house. I also tell them that everyone will want a piece of their money, so be prepared to lose friends and family. Money reveals what people really are."
We know what Scott is: a truth teller who has provided another glimpse behind the NFL curtain.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.