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BucDaFackUp

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: June 22, 2009, 05:24:15 AM

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/peter_king/06/21/brooks/index.html?eref=sihp

Career mortality and why Sapp says veterans are no longer needed

It's happening to Derrick Brooks. After 11 Pro Bowls, six first-team all-pro nods, one Super Bowl victory and one Defensive Player of the Year award, football is saying to him, "We don't need you anymore.''

He always knew it would happen, and he's prepared himself for a career after football as well as anyone can, but it's happening too fast, and he's not really ready to go. He can't believe he's in his 17th week of unemployment after being cut by the Bucs, and no team in the NFL has offered him a chance to sign, even for relative pennies.

I'm stunned by it, quite frankly. I don't care if the guy gets wheeled into a locker room with two broken legs. Derrick Brooks is a football player's football player, one of the best students of the game I've ever seen. He keeps voluminous notes, he watches hours of tape on days off, he calls his coaches after midnight in the off-season to brainstorm. (True story. Ask the new Seattle defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, formerly the Tampa Bay linebackers coach, about Brooks calling late one spring Saturday night with an X-and-O idea.) And to think that 31 teams in the National Football League can't use one of 53 spots on a roster for a leader like Brooks who still has the needle on one-quarter ... I don't get it. I called around the league to find out why, and I got a bunch of he's not the same Brooks ... we're trying to get younger ... he's not quick enough for our scheme. Blah, blah, blah.

I understand an NFL team is going to employ between six and eight linebackers, usually, depending on whether the team runs a 3-4 or 4-3, and I understand that Brooks isn't going to be an every-down player at 36. So the book says if you're going to have a linebacker playing 20 snaps a game, he'd better play a huge role on special teams. And Brooks, at his age, wouldn't be the kamikaze type you'd want out there. So it comes down to this: An NFL coach would have to keep one fewer special-teams demon in exchange for having one of the best leaders in the league. And that's why Brooks sits home in Florida today, waiting for the phone to ring.

But there might be something else.

"I'll tell you the real reason,'' his friend Warren Sapp said over the weekend. "Because it's not the same for the veterans anymore. The NFL doesn't need us. In this NFL, the old vets don't factor in. The kids don't listen to nobody. Nobody! My last year in Oakland, I'd try to talk to some of the kids. Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands. But they had no interest. I thought the ghosts in that building were so valuable, but none of the young guys cared. Once in a while, one of the old legends would come in the building, or make a trip. Jack Tatum would be around, and I'd say, 'You know who that dude is? You know how he played?' And the kids would be like, 'Nah, I don't care.'

"The game's different now. Look at Vince Young. Why wouldn't he listen to Kerry Collins? I'm sure Vince thinks, 'Nobody's been through what I'm going through. Nobody's been through my kind of pressure.' Are you kidding me! Kerry Collins, fifth pick in the draft, has all the ups and downs, gets benched, makes those racist comments, has the alcohol problems, moves from team to team, comes back, has success ... Vince Young should suck up all the knowledge Kerry Collins has to offer! There's no better role model for him.''

I have heard that Collins went out of his way last year to try to help Young when the struggling quarterback was having his quasi-breakdown. Young had no interest. Maybe Sapp's on to something. If he is, it's a sad commentary on the kids of the NFL. I remember being in Tampa last year to do a story for SI on Brooks playing Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, and I thought at least one of the young linebackers, Barrett Ruud, tried to siphon off Brooks' knowledge.

"I always wonder during games, 'How Derrick get there so fast?' '' Ruud said. "Then I'd watch the tape, and I'd see he started running to the spot before I would have, because he just knew his keys and he knew the tendencies of the offense better than anybody else.'' But I also heard that while Ruud was a willing listener, the other young 'backers weren't.

Brooks told me he wants to play one more year. His gut feeling is he'll get picked up. His agent, Roosevelt Barnes, told me the same thing Sunday evening. Some teams have sniffed around -- the Saints, most notably -- but no offers have been made.

"I'll tell you how committed I am to play, and playing well,'' said Brooks. "I was hurt most of last year. First time in 14 years I've been hurt, and I played hurt. It affected me, obviously. But I wanted to play well so badly this year that I skipped the Pro Bowl after the season, and the day after our season ended, the day after we lost to Oakland in the last game, at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, I was in the trainers' room doing my rehab work on my hamstring. I didn't want to have any setbacks by playing in the Pro Bowl.''

When new coach Raheem Morris called Brooks Feb. 25 and asked him to come in and see him, Brooks knew he was being let go. He snapped into the phone: "Are you kidding me!'' Since then, he's devoted time to training, and to his young education causes, including seeing his first senior class of 16 students graduate from the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School. It's the first charter school in the county that contains Tampa, and Brooks swells with pride about the lives he's helped change by giving inner-city kids a chance at a better education. All 16 of his charges will be attending college in the fall.

The fall. That's when Brooks hopes he's playing. Somewhere.

"The reality in this game is we're all going to walk into work one day and be told, 'You're out of a job.' '' he said. "I don't think it's my time yet.''

It's not up to him. For someone who always controlled his own fate with his effort and his play, that's the hardest part.

***


duanet75

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#1 : June 22, 2009, 05:28:23 AM

Stopped reading once i saw sports illustrated


JM2

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#2 : June 22, 2009, 08:34:50 AM

I thought it was a nice article. Everything there makes sense to me.

And with the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville.

Snook

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#3 : June 22, 2009, 08:57:30 AM

Peter King is a **CENSORED**.  If Brooks was still on the team, he'd be criticizing the Bucs for still having a slow, aging LB starting for their "old" defense...


NotDeadYet

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#4 : June 22, 2009, 09:16:31 AM

    I'm not an SI guy at all myself, but Sapp's comments make this well worth reading. I strongly suspect, as even King acknowledges, Sapp is "on to something" which I've not seen in print before.

Tampa Bay Todd

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#5 : June 22, 2009, 09:18:33 AM

I think there's a lot of truth to what Sapp had to say.


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#6 : June 22, 2009, 09:28:36 AM

Just sign the guy to vet minimum and let him be a leader of this football team.  If he outplays the young guys in camp then let him be the starter.  Seems like RAH and the boys don't want competition at the LB position.


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#7 : June 22, 2009, 09:31:53 AM

I thought Brooks was kind of playing through a leg problem after his holdout, but he says last year was the first time. Maybe he forgot that.

ryan24

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#8 : June 22, 2009, 11:01:19 AM

Peter King is a writer who has a lot of trouble moving on with a lot of players in the NFL. Just like a lot of fans.

Happy and Peppy and Bursting with love.

CurtR1995

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#9 : June 22, 2009, 11:36:26 AM

Brooks is a first ballot no doubt about it HoF'er. 

That being said, he is done, and anyone who saw him play know it. 

cheveliar

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#10 : June 22, 2009, 11:37:46 AM

I'm  not a Peter King guy, but I do feel the same sentiments about Brooks...

Without Carl Nix it feels like our running game just took a death blow to the face!


OKC PAC

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#11 : June 22, 2009, 11:39:24 AM

An injured Brooks is done...but the Brooks that played last year before injury is better than whoever they decide to put there THIS ONE YEAR!

Bring back GRUDEN!!!

BucDaFackUp

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#12 : June 22, 2009, 12:20:26 PM

I think the best scenario would be for Derrick to call it quits and the Bucs put him on the staff in some capacity. I think the Bucs would score alot of points with the community if that were the outcome. Hopefully Derrick doesn't devalue his body of work by playing one year too long...

CyberDilemma

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#13 : June 22, 2009, 12:36:34 PM

An injured Brooks is done...but the Brooks that played last year before injury is better than whoever they decide to put there THIS ONE YEAR!

If we keep using stop-gap measures to try and look good for "THIS ONE YEAR", as you say, then we will continue to look like the team we have the last 6 years and not develop any new talent. That is what the Glazers are trying to change.

MiltonMack21

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#14 : June 22, 2009, 12:43:11 PM

In the NFL players drop off overnight, literally.

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