By NFL standards, he was undersized and the Vikings haven’t kept seven linebackers on the final roster for years. Either he was going to have to beat out veteran Audie Cole or the Vikings were going to have to sacrifice a roster spot to keep him.
As it turned out, that’s exactly what they did, keeping two quarterbacks instead of three and opening the door for an additional roster spot at linebacker.
Given the turmoil that was going on at Winter Park last Saturday with the announcement of the blockbuster trade that brought Sam Bradford to the Vikings, Brothers didn’t know what to make of the whirlwind of activity that was going on.
He thought about going home, but decided to hang around and see what was going to happen. If the hammer was going to come down, he didn’t want to get a phone call telling him to come back to Winter Park. If there bad news coming, he preferred to get it face to face.
He waited and waited and the news he feared never came.
“I was at the facility and there were some guys getting pulled aside and we knew what was happening,” Brothers said. “I figured if it was going to happen, I was going to stick around in case they grabbed me. Nobody came to get me. I felt very relieved that it wasn’t me. I waited until somebody told me they were done. I was able to go home and relax at that point.”
The last four months were a series of tests and trials for Brothers. He some great days where he hoped he was making an impression on the coaching staff. He had some bad days where he was frustrated and wondering if he was doing enough to get the job done.
Clearly, there were many more good days than bad, but Brothers tended to dwell on the things he did wrong – something he has done throughout his football career. He’s something of a perfectionist and when things don’t go as hoped, he’s pretty harsh on himself.
He knew the cards were stacked against him in the roster numbers game from Day One and tried to keep the thought from creeping into the back of his mind that his NFL dream might not happen.
“When I first got here, I saw how deep we were at linebacker,” Brothers said. “My mind was definitely in the right place that I was going to have to work very hard to get a spot. I kind of figured I was going to sink or swim because there were so many good players at those spots.”
The biggest stumbling block Brothers faced turned out to be his own self-assessment. A film-study junkie, he would go back and watch preseason games before he and his teammates did film study.
Early on, he wasn’t liking what he was seeing, because it didn’t always look like the same player who was a tackling machine at Missouri and one of the dominant defensive players in the SEC.
But, as time went on, he started seeing those flashes and felt better about his place in the NFL, whether it was with the Vikings or with another team with less depth at linebacker.
“I watched back every game to see the things that I did wrong,” Brothers said. “Early on, I wasn’t playing bad, but I wasn’t playing with the confidence that I always have. But, as the preseason went on, my confidence went up and you could see that on film. I figured that, if they did cut me, someone else would pick me up quick.”
As his confidence grew, he started garnering more attention from the coaching staff. He made sure not to get ahead of himself and start thinking that he had a roster spot set.
In his position – never getting off the bubble of players who were viewed as having the potential of making the roster, but still facing long odds – he was pleased to be getting the praise from the coaches, but never lost sight of the first impression he got when he came to Minnesota.
As he saw it, he could hope for the best but had to be realistic and prepare for a bad outcome.
“The coaches were very supportive,” Brothers said. “They would tell me when I was making plays. But I couldn’t get a big head about that because I knew it was a game of numbers and this is a business. You have to expect the worst always, because that will keep you pushing harder to improve every day.”
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The relief that Brothers felt last Saturday was quickly replaced with the resolve that, while he won a roster spot, he has to keep his nose to the grindstone to maintain his roster spot.
The NFL is a fickle business for guys on the back end of the 53-man roster. If there is a shortage of players at another position, a player from a different position is often forced to be sacrificed to add another player where the team needs it more.
Brothers knows that his future isn’t etched in stone and that he could end up being a numbers casualty that the team doesn’t want to make, but may have to. Because of that, he’s taking nothing for granted.
“I don’t know what the future is going to bring,” Brothers said. “All I know is I accomplished my goal of making the team. Now I have to keep improving, showing every day that I belong here and make the most out of this opportunity.”