BROOKS IS BACK

August 8 – After a 10-day holdout from training camp, Pro Bowl LB Derrick Brooks finally ended his standoff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by reporting to the University of Tampa on Wednesday evening. Brooks joined his teammates and participated in the final night practice of training camp at Pepin-Rood Stadium.

Pro Bowl LB Derrick Brooks ended his 10-day holdout from Bucs' training camp on Wednesday after he, his agent and GM Rich McKay reached an agreement to intensify contract extension efforts. Head coach Tony Dungy and McKay were extremely happy to have Brooks in camp.

"It's always nice to have everyone back," said Dungy. "It's good to get Derrick here and get him started. I think Derrick got some good work in tonight. It's always nice to get everything behind you and I thought our team did a great job of not letting it be a distraction and just going to work and taking care of business. I know Derrick was always confident that it would get worked out, so we made the best of the situation."

"It's nice to have the situation resolved and have Derrick Brooks in camp," said McKay. "Anytime, when you keep the focus on football, it's a positive."

To the surprise of the Buccaneers, the media and Bucs' fans, Brooks decided not report to the University of Tampa on July 29 with his teammates for the start of training camp. It didn't take long to figure out Brooks was holding out for a new contract, even though he has two years left on his deal right now.

Brooks renegotiated his contract twice before in order to help the team with its salary cap situation-once in November of 1997 and another time in September of 1999. Under his current contract, Brooks is scheduled to make just over $3 million this season and for the 2002 season, he is scheduled to make $3.75 million along with a $3 million bonus.

After a 10-day holdout from camp, Brooks returned to camp without a new contract, but the word he received from his agent was enough to send him camping. Brooks received word from his agent that he and GM Rich McKay had reached an understanding about Brooks' goal for a new contract.

"That's all I wanted the whole time," said Brooks. "Now, I guess there is a renewed sense of urgency to get it done. I've rededicated myself by coming out here to camp and right now, we're back on the same page and everybody's moving in the same direction and hopefully it will get done."

So, what exactly was said or done in order to resolve a situation, which just a few days earlier, did not seem like it was making any progress?

"Some things are better off not said," said Brooks. "Right now, everybody understands that we are on the same page and I'm in camp.

"Basically, we have come to a mutual understanding at this point. Right now, I'm just getting really focused in on football. Hopefully, I expect things to really intensify the next couple of weeks to get this contract long-term drawn out. As long as that is our goal at this point, I think it is obtainable and I am just going to keep my mind on the field and let my representatives and Rich hopefully finish that soon."

Brooks walked onto the field at Pepin-Rood Stadium to participate in the night practice with a raucous crowd welcoming him back with cheers and applause.

"It felt good," said Brooks. "That kind of capped off my day. I woke up this morning, not really expecting to be here. But to constantly get good news throughout the day really made me feel good. I thank the fans and the crowd for more or less welcoming me back home. It was great to be back out here. I was thrown right into the fire. I wasn't eased in at all. They threw me right in and I responded well because I have been looking forward to this day for about 10-days."

The fans were ecstatic to see Brooks take the field, but no one was happier to have Brooks back than his teammates. Strong safety John Lynch was delighted to have Brooks' end his hold out.

"We're happy to have him back," said Lynch. "We felt like we have been having a real good camp and it just got better tonight. It was exciting when he came out here. The crowd really responded well to him and we responded well to it. You'd be foolish to say that he has not been a huge part of the success we have had as an organization and we feel like this is going to be a special year. He's going to be a big part of that, so it's great to have him back and be working towards that goal.

"Derrick is the guy that calls signals in the huddle. It's nice to get that feeling back in the huddle and it's a good day for us."

Pro Bowl DT Warren Sap echoed Lynch's thoughts.

"He's the heart and soul of us," said Sapp. "He's highway patrol, always on duty. He's back on duty now, so let's go."

There might be cause for concern about Brooks' absence from camp and the affect it might have on him and the team, but Lynch chose to focus in on the positive aspects of Brooks' return.

"Derrick has been studying getting film, studying film and been working out," said Lynch. "He's that type of guy. He's been around long enough where this can actually help him out by keeping his legs a little fresh. I think you have to look for positives in everything like this. Shelton Quarles got some work in and Al Singleton stepped up, so some more people got some more looks. I think that is the way we choose to look at it."

Lynch sympathized with Brooks' situation and decision to hold out of camp.

"I didn't know how long this would last," said Lynch. "Just knowing Derrick, he's like me. I know it would be killing me to be there while your teammates are out working. I know he's a very principled guy and that was the only thing I was worried about. Fortunately, I think both sides came to some common ground and he's back and that's good."

Throughout his hold out, Brooks chose to remain tightlipped about the situation, even after the Buccaneers claimed the ball was in Derrick's court.

"People were making their opinions based on one side of the story," said Brooks. "With my respect of who I am and my privacy, I chose not to speak. The grounds I was standing on were because of who Derrick Brooks is as a man and what my integrity holds. I had peace with that."

Brooks feels he can focus in on football and let the rest of the pieces fall into place. For that reason, Brooks does not anticipate having to hold out again.

"Right now, we've come to a mutual understanding and the stalemate is over," said Brooks. "As long as everybody's intentions are of getting a deal done, then we will get a deal done. I'll just do my part by staying on the field and prepare myself and the team to win the Super Bowl. I will let my representatives iron out all of the details."

After missing the first 10 days of training camp, one will be wondering if Brooks returned to practice early enough to play in the first preseason game of the 2001 season for Tampa Bay on Monday night against the Miami Dolphins. Well, not only will Brooks play, but he will start too.

"Yeah," said Brooks. "I walked right in and took every rep. So, the intentions are for me to play next Monday night. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and get my feet back."

Dungy was impressed by Brooks' energy on Wednesday night, but does not want him to overdue it and get injured.

"He's like our guys were 10-days ago," said Dungy. "He was very fresh and ready to go. I know he was very excited about being out here. We have to just be careful not to go too fast, but I think he is going to be fine."


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