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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Many believe retirement is option Brooks will take



Dbrooks Derrick Brooks never missed a game in his 14-year career with the Bucs and they still took away his helmet.

But that doesn't mean he's going to lose his head. Brooks, 35, will take a few days to digest what happened Wednesday before deciding on his future.

One option is to call a news conference, dim the lights, play the career highlight film, throw a party at Raymond James Stadium with coaches and teammates, pose for the bronze bust statue that will rest in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and call it an era.

Will Brooks continue playing?

"Naw,'' former Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp said.

"I think he retires,'' said Bucs coach Raheem Morris. "But honestly, I don't know.''

"I think he retires,' said former Bucs quarterback Shaun King. "Everything he does is in Florida, his business, his school, the charitable work he does. I don't think he'll want to move somewhere else and play again.''

"He'll probably retire,' said Keyshawn Johnson. "He could go play somewhere for two years, then he would be nearly 40. It would take him a few years to decide what he wants to do after that. Now he's almost 45 and he's just starting to get going before he's 50.

"There's nothing else for him to accomplish. Why would he want to chase it? I know he's taken care of his business financially. Just get the bronze plaque ready.''

One person whose opinion counts is Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry, a guy Brooks has asked for an honest evaluation of his play following each season.

"I think he can and will play next year,'' Barry said.

Brooks said he was 'surprised,' by the Bucs decision to release him along with four other veteran players Wednesday. But Brooks made it a point to meet with new defensive coordinator Jim Bates shortly after he was hired. Under Bates, the weakside linebacker position that Brooks plays would have some different responsibilities than in the Tampa Two system.

Brooks had already begun coming off the field in nickel passing situations. And as general manager Mark Dominik said, he couldn't fathom seeing Brooks on the sideline wearing a baseball cap.

Brooks had one year remaining on his contract and many believe he would've walked away on his own terms after the 2009 season.

Having been named to an 11th Pro Bowl last year, Brooks believes he can still play at high level. He also has watched safety John Lynch and Warren Sapp demonstrate there is football life after the Bucs. Lynch went to four Pro Bowls and played in an AFC Championship game with the Denver Broncos. Sapp's experience with the Raiders wasn't nearly as idyllic, although he did post some decent individual performances.

But Brooks has only played for one organization, where he was perhaps the most reveered player in Bucs history. He was the face of the franchise, so it's hard to imagine Brooks as just one of the faces in another organization.

"We understand who Derrick Brooks is,'' Dominik said. "We want him to be part of the Buccaneers family in the future and we expect him to be part of the Buccaneer family in the future. To me, Derrick Brooks will always be a Buccaneer. Whenever anybody says, No. 55, in my mind, it'll always be Derrick Brooks.''

Brooks has accomplished everything a player can in the NFL -- he's won a Super Bowl, been named the Defensive Player of the Year, the Walter Payton Man of the Year and been to 11 Pro Bowls, including 10 straight.

With no real carrot left to chase, why not just enjoying eating it?

(Times photo -- Brian Cassella. Click to enlarge.)

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:26pm]


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