All Brooks needed was 1 more play
© St. Petersburg Times
TAMPA -- You hesitated, Joe. That was your mistake.
You, more than anyone else, should know better. In matters concerning Derrick Brooks and a football field, you should never hesitate. A guy like Marshall Faulk hesitates around Brooks and gets a sprained neck.
You wanted to do what was best, Joe. That was your intent.
So when Brooks limped your way late Monday night and told you he had one more play left in that sore, stiff leg of his, you immediately said no. That's what a position coach does. He looks out for his guys.
But Brooks insisted he was okay and you hesitated.
That's when he got you, Joe.
Brooks was back on the field before you could stop him. Then he was running into the night before anyone could stop him.
We're talking maybe 30 seconds real time. Forty-five, tops. That's all it took for Brooks to re-insert himself into the game, intercept a Kurt Warner pass, return it 39 yards for a touchdown and then continue running into the locker room with the ball, the game and his legacy in his hands.
"I had already lost Brooks and now Al Singleton is down," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "I'm scrambling. It's not like there's a timeout. I've got to make a split second decision. Derrick looks at me and says, 'I'll go in.' He hadn't played in 25 snaps. Hadn't played in a half-hour. I said, 'No.'
"He said, 'I'll go in and do it.' I looked at him and said, 'Don't (kid) me.' He's been out for 25 straight plays. He goes in for one play and reads the pass. He reads Warner's eyes and it's over."
You underestimated him, Kurt. That was your mistake.
You, more than anyone else, should know better. In matters concerning Brooks and a football field, you underestimate him at your own peril. Part of the Brooks legend has been built on grand performances against the Rams.
You were desperate to make a play, Kurt. That was your hope.
So you hardly noticed when Brooks returned to the game with barely a minute remaining on the clock. You had bigger things on your mind. Your team was trailing 19-14 and had more than 60 yards of field ahead of you.
But you forgot about the play Brooks had made earlier in the game. It was a sideline pattern Brooks fully anticipated. He broke a fraction of a second late but got one hand on the ball to knock it away.
That's when Brooks went back to Barry on the sideline and told him if you tried that pass again, he was going to intercept it.
That's where he got you, Kurt.
You tried to disguise it. The formation was different. The man in motion was different. But Brooks read the play. He watched your eyes and knew exactly when and where you were throwing the ball.
Then he was heading to the end zone before you could stop him.
"I could tell they were coming to my side," Brooks said. "So I just read the quarterback and sat on the route.
"I was running as best I could. It wasn't my fastest, but once I got past the linemen, I saw Warren (Sapp) leading the way. He leveled Warner, put a lick on him. I got in the end zone and just kept going in. I couldn't do us no more good at that point."
You understand now, Derrick. This is what last year taught you.
You, more than anyone else, can appreciate the sport's demands. You never have missed a game in your NFL career and when you walk on the field in Cincinnati on Sunday it will be your 100th consecutive start.
You have grown, Derrick. And you're a better player for it.
Last season you stayed on the field when you knew you shouldn't. Your ankle was throbbing and you could barely make it from one side of the field to the other. Your play suffered and the team suffered with you.
So when you pulled a hamstring against the Rams on Monday night, you did the right thing. You told Barry you had to come out. You were prepared to watch the rest of the game from the sideline even if the thought unnerves you.
But then Al Singleton took a knee to the head and you could see he would need a minute to collect himself. You told Barry you could go in. You didn't give it much thought. You just said it.
He was skeptical, of course, but you tried to convince him. One play, you said. You promised you would leave the field if he just gave you one more play. Before he could refuse, you were running back onto the field.
Warner threw his pass your way, and the rest is history. You stepped in front of the receiver, grabbed your third interception of the season and scored your second touchdown in as many weeks.
There was no reason to stop at that point. You were worried any sudden movement would further damage your hamstring, so you kept jogging through the end zone, into the tunnel and around the corner into the locker room.
You had your pants off and your leg on ice before the kickoff. You watched the rest of the game on TV with a police officer.
"He is one of the more complete football players I've ever been around," coach Jon Gruden said. "Some of the open-field tackles he makes are amazing plays. You take them for granted. When you're a newcomer like I am, sometimes maybe you get a little too excited.
"He kind of looks at me like, 'I've done this for seven or eight years now, you know? Calm down.' But he fires me up. He really does."
You want to remember him this way. That is your wish.
Running from view with one hand holding a ball aloft and the other reaching down to grab his hamstring.
You want to admire Derrick Brooks. That is your choice.
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