Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks met with the Tampa Bay media on Friday to discuss his release from the team. On Wednesday, Brooks was cut along with four other veterans: running back Warrick Dunn, wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard and fellow linebacker Cato June.
“Obviously it has been a pleasure my time here, I like to think it was well spent,” said Brooks to open his press conference. “To be very short and sweet, I just look forward to whatever doors God is going to open to me next, and I’ll approach it like I do everything else with prayer, perspective, and purpose.”
Brooks said he is considering continuing his NFL playing career with another team, but is also considering retirement or possibly taking a job in the Bucs organization.
“We are going to look at all options to be honest with you,” said Brooks. “I think that is the beauty of who God made me. I live every day to the fullest, and my simple-minded approach as always is prepare yourself for the day without football. Whether it be decisions like this or injury, I’ve well-rounded myself to go in a number of directions and now I step back and look at football being one of them versus other things too.”
Brooks was asked about what situations and opportunities would cause him to continue playing in the NFL or retire.
“The playing circumstances will kind of dictate themselves,” said Brooks. “I spoke with my agent and he asked questions that we answered, and we will basically see what teams are offering. We’ve never been in this position so it is kind of hard for me to tell you what we are looking for outside of opportunity. We’ll just take every opportunity as it comes forward.”
Brooks played 14 seasons in Tampa Bay where he became the franchise's all-time leading tackler. Brooks went to 11 Pro Bowls in those 14 seasons, and his most recent appearance was this season. But Brooks did not play in the game due to injuries.
Brooks, who turns 36 in April, was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the 2002 season when the Buccaneers won their only Super Bowl Championship. That season Brooks became the only linebacker in NFL history to have three interceptions returned for a touchdown. He scored four touchdowns in the regular season, and then another in the Super Bowl that sealed the victory for Tampa Bay.
In his Bucs career, Brooks was extremely durable making 208 consecutive starts. In 2008 Brooks was hampered by injuries but still started every game for the 13th straight season. He finished second the team in tackles with 111. Brooks also had seven tackles for a loss, one interception, one forced fumble, and eight passes defensed.
Buccaneer general manager Mark Dominik, head coach Raheem Morris, and the Tampa Bay organization have come under criticism for the manner in which the team released Brooks. The future Hall-of-Fame linebacker said he was surprised by being cut, and answered whether he thought he was treated fairly in his release.
“I don’t want to make it seem as if everything was all negative, because there were positives to it,” said Brooks. “You always wish the process could be a little different then what it is. At the end of the day I’ve always said this ‘our owners and our leaders make decisions.’ It doesn’t matter what you feel or think, at the end of the day they make the decision. I’ve always respected change. I do that today. I respect the change and the direction that coach Morris and Mark want to go. I’ll do what I can to support it. I just had a conversation with Geno [Hayes] this morning. I’ll do all I can to again support the players as best I can.”
Hayes was Brooks backup for most of the 2008 season before a knee injury ended his season early. Like Brooks, Hays a Florida State University product. The Buccaneers could bring in competition for Hayes in free agency or the NFL draft to compete for the linebacker spot that Brooks occupied the past 14 seasons.
Brooks said he met last week with new defensive coordinator Jim Bates and linebacker coach Joe Barry to discuss terminology and strategy in the new defense. Brooks had fielded calls from teammates that were asking about the new defense, and he was trying to find out the answers. Brooks was asked if he would consider being a coach with the Buccaneers.
“I’ve been mentioned for a number of things over the years from a coach, to a politician. I just evaluate them as they come,” Brooks said. “I guess the best thing of being in the position that I am is I don’t have to rush in anything. I’ll just be patient, and continue to pray for direction. Whatever I set my mind on what I am going to do it will be all-in.”
While Brooks will be always be remembered in Tampa Bay for his great play on the field, he will also be treasured for his philanthropy off the field. Brooks started a charter school in Tampa among many projects and charity work he did in the Tampa Bay area. Even though he is no longer a Buccaneer, Brooks said he will not be leaving Tampa and will stay active in the community.
“Yes I’m always here,” said Brooks. “You never leave relationships. That is why I say my approach as a human being is always about relationships, and those never leave. Those will always be here, even if the decision is made to play elsewhere. The things that I’ve set in place here that God has allowed has nothing to do with football. That is why I say I’ll always be here, and Tampa will always be my home.”