Monday, Sept. 17
Trouble brewing with Brooks?
Derrick Brooks usually speaks to the media on Wednesdays and after every game. But he was conspicuously absent after Sunday's victory over New Orleans.
That led to speculation that Brooks, 34, was upset that he was sharing time with Cato June, a free agent signed in the offseason to play strong side linebacker (and, most believe, to replace Brooks one day).
Brooks told the Tampa Tribune on Monday that he was just picking up his daughter at the airport after the game. He also told the Tribune that he had no problem with sharing time with June.
The timing is certainly curious. This comes on the heels of a week's worth of talk about whether Brooks has lost a step at weak side linebacker (the Tribune wrote an article exploring the issue in Sunday's paper).
June will one day be the starter at that position. It's no coincidence that his contract ends the same year Brooks does — 2009 — and that June is likely to get an extension at some point while Brooks plays out his deal.
But look at the numbers from Sunday's game. Brooks had nine tackles, June had five. June's interception, I believe, came on the weak side. Brooks also forced a fumble.
If, indeed, Brooks is cool with this arrangement, this can do nothing but help the 13-year vet. Brooks told the Tribune that he knew the rotation was coming on Sunday and that it helped keep himself, along with other players, fresher late in the game.
That's great news if you're a Bucs fan. A fresher Brooks later in games means he'll make more plays later in games — and have fewer of the breakdowns he had in the opener against Seattle.
No one in Tampa Bay wants to see Brooks retire — or fail. The fact that the vet appears to be open to new ideas is an indication that he knows he needs help to stay fresh on the field — and that he wants to win more than anything else.
It's a beautiful morning
Jon Gruden woke up at 3:17 a.m. — what an ungodly hour — and found his team in first place.
Seriously. First place.
Yes, it's way early to talk about such things, but the Bucs — who went 4-12 a year ago — actually have the lead in the NFC South after two games.
The Bucs are 1-1, but have a 1-0 division record. The Panthers, who lost to Houston on Sunday, are 1-1, but have not played a divisional game yet. The Panthers get their first taste of that on Sunday at Atlanta.
This must feel almost foreign to this team, being in first place at any time after such a horrible 2006.
This underscores the meaning of games such as Sunday's victory over New Orleans. Gruden likened a win such as Sunday's as a double win. Teams that make the playoffs win division games and they win at home. Only one playoff team failed to win the majority of their division games, or a majority of their home games, last year.
So the next two games are pretty critical this early in the season. St. Louis is a home game, and they're 0-2 right now. The next week is Carolina, and the Panthers, naturally, are a division foe.
There is now a scenario in which the Bucs could finish the first quarter of the season 3-1 and in control of the NFC South.
Could anyone have predicted that a month ago? Nope.