By ERNEST HOOPER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000
TAMPA -- Derrick Brooks does not have a game ball for his 15-tackle effort against New England, but he does have the honor of being the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Clearly, his toughest critics sit next to him.
"It means that our standards in this locker room are a lot higher than the standards in the league," Brooks said Wednesday, laughing. "It's a tough game ball to get. Hopefully, every week we'll find somebody rising to the challenge because that'll mean we're playing good defense."
In addition to his 15 tackles (12 solo), the weak-side linebacker had two tackles for loss and forced a fumble.
But defensive tackle Warren Sapp garnered the team's honor, receiving a game ball after five tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. Wednesday, the 1999 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year had only praise for Brooks.
"He's the best player on our defense, no doubt about it," Sapp said. "He's the best player on this team and the best outside linebacker in the league.
"Monday through Saturday, he's mild-mannered, he's a good guy. Sunday, he's a monster. He's fierce."
Brooks conceded he is a far different person on the field, but only because he is trying to lead by example. And that leadership has become more necessary with former middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson now playing in Jacksonville.
"I'm part of every snap: offense, defense, special teams," said the sixth-year player from Florida State. "I'm all into the ballgame. That's how much I want to win. When the game's over, I turn it back off and go back to being Derrick.
"(Teammates) realize the importance of the role I play. I may not go out and say a lot; I just do it on the field. It's important to me that they recognize it, but it's also important to me that that's how they look at me. I have to show up every week."
Brooks, 27, was not the only Bucs player honored by the league. Quarterback Shaun King and receiver Reidel Anthony received an inaugural award: Play of the Week.
King's 8-yard touchdown pass to Anthony on a fake spike play at the end of the first half received the designation. The touchdown helped the Bucs come away with a 21-16 victory over the Patriots.
In leaner years, player of the week awards were rare, but they have become more common as the wins have increased. Last season the Bucs had five players honored six times. Cornerback Donnie Abraham won twice, and Brooks was honored after recording 13 tackles and two interceptions against Chicago in October.
- Staff writer Mike Readling contributed to this story.