By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001
TAMPA -- Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks isn't one to call attention to his philanthropic endeavors, but the NFL did on Friday and the timing couldn't be better.
Brooks and Chicago defensive tackle Jim Flanigan were named Friday as co-winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, which takes into account a player's performance on and off the field.
"We admire you very, very much," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.
The league needs to trumpet their off-the-field work.
Its image isn't the best in the wake of the Rae Carruth murder trial, the obstruction of justice plea by Ray Lewis after a double killing outside an Atlanta night club after the Super Bowl last year and the Mark Chmura sexual assault trial.
"The league has taken a shot off the field with some bad incidents," Brooks said. "It's not in Derrick Brooks' nature to get up and brag about what he does, but it's going to take these type of efforts to get the trust back of society. It's forced us to come out of our shell. Me, I welcome the opportunity and I step forward and lead the charge to get the image back."
Changing the public's perception of NFL players and professional athletes never was the goal of the Brooks Bunch program, which rewards inner-city Boys & Girls Club members who have performed well academically and behaviorally in the classroom.
"It's really about the kids; we are in this business to change kids," he said.
TAMPA -- In town to clear out his desk and begin his transition as coach of the Jets, former Bucs assistant Herman Edwards said he has had contact with two free-agent defensive backs who played for Tampa Bay last season.
The chance meeting with cornerback Ronde Barber, who just finished arguably his best season, and free safety Damien Robinson, who came on strong in the second half, could spell trouble for the Bucs.
Both players plan to test the free-agent market and had a strong relationship with Edwards, who was defensive backs coach.
"I met with all those guys," Edwards said. "They came by my office while I was packing my stuff up. Some of those guys' contracts are up. I understand that that is the great thing about free agency, you never know if they might want to fly to New York to see what New York looks like."
In spite of his concussion history, quarterback Troy Aikman has a strong desire to play a 13th season for the Cowboys while weighing the risk vs. reward factor involved, Aikman's agent said. "I don't think there's a question of whether Troy (physically) can play next season," agent Leigh Steinberg said.
COLTS: Three years after signing a lease to play in the RCA Dome, the team is looking for a new stadium. "We're gathering information," owner Jim Irsay told the Indianapolis Star.
LIONS: Bill Tobin, 59, will be responsible for scouting, draft preparations and free-agent acquisitions.
SAINTS: Wide receiver Joe Horn was named as an injury replacement to the NFC Pro Bowl squad. He replaces Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss, who bruised his ribs in the NFC championship.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: The announcing team -- Al Michaels, Dan Fouts, Dennis Miller, Melissa Stark, Eric Dickerson -- will return for the 2001 season. ABC Sports president Howard Katz said: "As I've been saying all year, I am very happy with the job everyone on the team did."
CHMURA TRIAL: The teenager who accused Mark Chmura of sexual assault once discussed getting money from the former Packers player because of the case, a friend of the girl testified. The teenager, a former babysitter for Chmura's children, has accused Chmura of having sex with her without her consent.
INGRAM UPDATE: Former Dolphins receiver Mark Ingram was freed after posting a $75,000 bond on a counterfeit-cash charge, but will not be allowed to travel to the Bahamas for his T-shirt business.
FORMER PLAYER CONVICTED: Former Redskins and Lions defensive back Raphel Cherry has been convicted a second time in the 1998 strangulation of his estranged wife. In Little Rock, Ark., Circuit Judge Chris Piazza sentenced Cherry to 30 years in prison.
- Information from staff writer Roger Mills and Times wires was used in this report.