Ahmad Brooks: 'This is where I should be'
Q: What are your thoughts that you know you're going to be with the 49ers for the next six seasons?
Brooks: It feels great to be here with the organization that gave me the chance to go out there and showcase my ability. We have a great team. We have a great organization, and I'm just glad to be a part of it.
Q: How involved were you with the contract negotiations, or was it just the agent doing most of the work?
Brooks: I was involved quite a bit, but at the same time that's what the agent is for, to get the best deal that's possible. Who's to say if I were to (enter) free agency, that I would have gotten more money, possibility. But at the same time, I've got to look at it from the different view than just looking at it at a money standpoint. Getting as much money as you can sounds good, but at the same time it's what team is going to give you the best opportunity to win. And I feel like the 49ers are heading into the direction of being the best team.
Q: Can you talk about what it means to be playing on that linebacking corps with Patrick Willis) and NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, and what that means for you personally?
Brooks: It means a lot. NaVorro and Pat, they're two great inside linebackers. They complement each other well, and I'm just glad to be on the outside of them playing with them. I think we'll be a great defense for a long time. As long as we continue to draft guys like Aldon and guys like that, and NaVorro, then I think the defense will be the best in the NFL.
Q: Did the team's success of last season help you with your decision?
Brooks: Yeah, most definitely. I've been in the NFL for a while now and I see the business side of it, but I also see a football player's perspective. And it's been a long journey for myself to put myself in the situation as a starter and not just that, but also making it to the playoffs. We had a lot of fun last year just winning. And everybody had fun from the owners to the managers, the equipment guys, everybody. And everybody was just excited. And the more games you win, the more exciting and the more fun it would be going out there to practice and play a game.
Q: In the past you've talked about how you've learned to become a professional throughout your NFL career and you've gotten better through that. Can you just talk about that process and what helped make things click for you?
Brooks: Coming into the NFL as a young player, you get paid a certain amount of money that you've never seen before. So, I can see young guys coming into the NFL and doing things that they shouldn't do, or just enjoying themselves. And when you enjoy yourself you may enjoy yourself a little bit too much to where it can affect your performance. And I think that early on in my career that's what may have happened to me. And once I got cut by the Bengals I just pretty much told myself that I would never let this happen again. Regardless of what goes on in my life, I will never let this happen again. So, I just pretty much had to re-evaluate myself as a player, as a person, to become the best person, and the best football player, that I could be because it's not going to last forever. And then once you retire from the game, once the NFL says ‘No' to you, we don't want you to play anymore, then you want to go out knowing that you did all that you could do to be the best that you could be. And that's where I'm at with myself.
Q: Looking back, is being cut by the Bengals maybe one of the best things that could have happened to you?
Brooks: No. I mean, yes and no. I don't know. I don't like the simple fact that a team told me, ‘Well hey we don't want you.' I've never had that happen to me ever in my life. So, it kind of felt like a girl broke up with me and broke my heart. That's how I felt. So, it can also be a blessing in disguise. I didn't see it at the time, but now it all paid off because I continued to work. I came in here and worked hard from not playing at all to being a full-time starter. It has definitely been an accomplishment for me.
Q: Do you think your signing, as well as having Parys Haralson there through 2014 with Aldon, NaVorro and Patrick, gives the team the best linebacking corps in the NFL?
Brooks: Yeah, I think so. Personally, I say yes. There's a lot of other competition. There's a lot more competition in the league, but I think that we have the best linebacker corps, hands down.
Q: How did you cope with the days after you guys lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game? How did you go through that?
Brooks: I don't know how everybody else dealt with it, but I just saw it as we were this close. We were that close to going to the Super Bowl and we just let it slip through our fingers. And that's all you can say. I'm pretty sure everybody on the team was like, wait, if I would have done this a little bit more then we would have won the game. If I would have made this play then we would have been in the position to kick a field goal. We would have been in the position to stop them on the 40, or 45, or whatever. You can't really dwell on things like that because that will eat you up inside. I think guys just took it for what it was. It's a loss. We were there, but we didn't make it to the Super Bowl.
Q: Is being in Santa Clara right now, is that a departure from your normal offseason routine? Didn't you usually go back to Virginia in the offseason?
Brooks: Yeah, I usually go home in the offseason to my mother's house. I have a daughter out there. So, that's pretty much my main reason why I go home. But I realized that I'm not 23, 24 years old anymore. I'm 28 and a lot of things change over the years. You grow up and you start seeing things from a different light and my career's here in California. So, I really want to make the best for my career and just capitalize on what I've already gained.
Q: Was maturity the key to blossoming as a player? Or were there some other things there too that were important to make this happen?
Brooks: You've got to have the will and the determination to also want to do it for yourself. We all have pride and I think my pride just wouldn't let me failing get the best of me. And we're always afraid to fail. I know I am, I'm afraid to fail. I just knew that if I were to work hard, good things would happen. So, I just always kept that in the back of my mind and I just kept working at it regardless of if it was whatever. I just know that football was a key to me being successful and helping out my family and I just continue to work.
Q: When you look back, who else besides yourself believed in you and was a key in making the light bulb come in, so to speak?
Brooks: Every year coming into training camp we all have goals. Every year my goal is to become a starter, if I'm not already the starter. I'm a starter now so obviously my goal is to keep my starting position because you're always competing every day, especially during training camp. That's just been my goal every year from the time I've been a rookie or from the time I started playing football. When Parys went down, I guess he just went down for a week, and I had an opportunity to start against the Oakland Raiders (in 2010). I did pretty good. I didn't do the best, but I think that this year the coaching staff has really given me a chance to go out there, regardless if I made mistakes or not, they kept me out there for me to learn from my experience. Coach (Vic) Fangio, I give him a lot of credit for that.
Q: What is it about coach Fangio's system that fits you so well?
Brooks: I don't know. I guess I can be myself. I just feel comfortable playing in the system. He doesn't ask for a lot. It's just easy to me. For a guy like myself to think like that, it's not just because of that, but I also have 10 other great guys around me that make me look just as good. When you're playing (with) guys like Ray McDonald, then I can rumble around. I can mess up, but Ray can make me look good as if I didn't mess up. When you're playing with guys like that, it just makes it a lot better for me to go out there and do things that I probably wouldn't do if I were with another team.
Q: When you are in games are you communicating more with Ray than you would be with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman since you and Ray work on the left side there?
Brooks: Yeah, me and Ray pretty much communicate on every play. Especially when it's third down and it's go get the quarterback, then a lot of times we'll look to communicate. I don't necessarily communicate with the inside linebackers as much because I'm just pretty much listening to the call. The inside linebackers are the quarterbacks of the defense, they make all the adjustments. If you ever see me turning back looking at NaVorro or looking at Pat, pretty much I'm asking, ‘what's the call, what's the call,' because I can't hear because the stadium is so loud. That's pretty much it. Or me and Pat might have a two-way go on rushing the passer or something like that, but most of the time it's me and Ray communicating.
Q: Why did you decide not to wait to test the market and see what you could get from other teams? Why did you sign now with the Niners?
Brooks: I don't know. Just something was telling me to sign here. I feel like this is where I should be. These are the people that gave me a chance to go out there and get this contract. From the time I got into the NFL I felt like I should have been starting. And coaches were always giving me an excuse like, ‘Well he doesn't know the defense, he can't learn the defense.' That's a lie. That's always been a lie. We practice the same things every day. How can I not remember what I practiced every day? I'm just happy to get this chance at just having a coaching staff that believed in me to go out there and showcase my talent. So, that also plays a big part in that.
Q: On a personal note, weren't you recently baptized? What's behind that?
Brooks: Yeah, I got baptized at Abundant Life (Christian Fellowship). It's in Mountain View, California. And I got baptized two Saturdays ago. So, that's pretty much a new level of my life. I'm 28 years old. I'm just trying to better myself as a person and that's pretty much it. Better myself as a father, as a teammate, as a brother, as a son, everything. And just be an example to kids and be an example to people that think that they can't go on, or who might have doubts about doing big things in life and just be an example to people.
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