Bucs going a 'different direction.'
It's a new day in Tampa Bay. And a sad one, too.
A somber Bucs general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris said the decision to release five veteran players -- including 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks -- was not an easy one.
But after many discussions, Dominik and Morris decided to pull the trigger on those players Wednesday in order to give their young talent a chance to get on the field. The Bucs released Brooks, receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, linebacker Cato June and running back Warrick Dunn.
Brooks met individually Wednesday with Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer, coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik.
"Obviously decisions like these are extremely difficult for any NFL franchise,'' Dominik said. "We let go of five really special people within our organization. Character, the way they handled the information they received today, only speaks volumes of what they were as professionals and players on and off the football field. I thought Derrick was a consumate professional.
Dominik called Brooks, "one of the greatest Bucs of all-time. But it's a decision and a direction we feel like we want to head as a franchise and as an organization. I would say for us is a very difficult day.''
Last month, Brooks attended the news conference to announce Morris as head coach and enthuisastically endorsed the decision.
On Wednesday, Morris thanked Brooks for giving him an opportunity rise through the ranks since joining the Bucs as a quality control coach in 2002.
"There's never a good time to make these types of decisions,'' Morris said. "Unfortunately, we've been put in the role as decision-makers and we made a big one today. All these guys are rare talents that mean a lot to everyone in this building. They've given us a lot. We're thankful to everything they've given us -- both championships, character off the field. Personally, I wouldn't be in the position I am today if it weren't for these players.''
Dominik said he beleived linebackers Qunicy Black, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes are ready to compete for starting jobs alongside middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.
"We believe there are players on this roster at linebacker that have an opportunity to step up and compete at (weakside) backer, (strongside) backer, wide receiver, at running back. So we believe there are some young men on the roster as we sit here today.''
Dominik said he has no idea whether Brooks, Dunn or others will decide to resume their careers. But the timing of their release was made to give them a jump on the free agent signing period, which begins Friday.
"It's a direction,'' Dominik said. "I'm not a big fan of the rebuilding word, but in a way, we did today, in a direction we want to head. So it wasn't so much what Derrick Brooks or Cato June couldn't do, it's the direction we want to go with the guys currrently on the roster and men that are going to join us as we create the roster over the next few months to get to training camp.''
Brooks had one more year left on his contract, but Dominik said he couldn't fathom seeing Brooks standing on the sideline.
"Our mindset was we made a decision we felt that was best for the organization,'' Dominik said. "I don't picture Derrick Brooks wearing a hat on Sunday on the sideline. That's not who Derrick Brooks was, that's not who Derrick Brooks is. That's why we made the decision and said, "We're going to go ahead and let you go.''