One of the things everyone likes about Derrick Brooks is his stand-up nature. So when the veteran Buccaneers linebacker wasn't in the locker room to face the media after Sunday's victory over New Orleans, everyone did a double take.
And then when you consider that Brooks left the field for 10 to 12 plays in nickel situations — something he never does — in deference to Cato June, well, you put two and two together and you get jammed talk radio lines and inches of "Is Brooks ticked?" stories.
He's not ticked. He knew about the rotation going into the game. He's fine with it. He said he had to take his kid to the airport after the game, nothing more.
So let's stop talking about this and start talking about the larger, football issue.
Is this a good idea?
Did you watch last Sunday's game? Of course it's a good idea. It borders on great.
Let's be blunt. Brooks is 34 years old. He says he hasn't lost a step, but the passage of time cannot be eluded by anyone. We all must concede that, due to age, he is not the same linebacker he was five years ago.
But is he washed up? No. He led the team in tackles last season with 150, the ninth time he's done so. He went to the Pro Bowl for the 10th time — albeit as an alternate playing due to injury. He has 19 tackles in two games and forced a fumble last week.
He still has game. It's just the timing of everything last weekend was unfortunate, given the talk about Brooks' misplays against Seattle. He failed to make a couple of plays, he said. It happens.
Even to him.
But if Joey Galloway, at age 35, gets a day off now every Wednesday, shouldn't the Bucs give Brooks — a future Hall of Famer — a little help getting through a 16-game season? Wouldn't you rather have a fresh Brooks in the fourth quarter in a late December game over a worn out one, which Brooks surely was by the end of last season?
So let June have 10-12 plays on the weak side in the nickel formation. June is a perfect fit for the weak side. He can cover the pass, as he proved last week against New Orleans with that interception. He has those younger legs, too, the legs Brooks used to have.
And, as an added benefit, Brooks will get some rest. Those 10-12 plays make a difference, you know. Brooks admitted Monday that he was much fresher late in the game.
Ask Galloway how much of a difference that day off each Wednesday makes. Or, actually don't. Just pop in a tape of his 135-yard, two-touchdown game against the Saints and you'll see those fresh 35-year old legs propelling Galloway around like a gazelle.
By the end of this season Brooks will have his 150 tackles, a smattering of interceptions and fresher legs — just in case this team surprises everyone and makes a playoff run.
So let's give him a break. An ACTUAL break. He's earned it.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.