TAMPA — Derrick Brooks entered the room wearing a blue sweat suit and stepped onto a stage that might as well have been in Alaska rather than One Buc Place.
Nothing about him even offered a hint of his former employer. The Bucs' iconic and now former linebacker even asked team officials to cover up the stage backdrop that prominently features team logos. Standing there, under these circumstances, would have been entirely too painful, he said.
He came to discuss his future, which could involve any number of things after his abrupt release Wednesday. He said he could make a foray into politics or even take a stab at coaching.
But before he moves on, he must make sure football is completely out of his system. Now that he's a free agent for the first time in his 14-year NFL career, Brooks said he will consider a chance to play elsewhere if the right opportunity arises.
"The circumstances, obviously, they'll kind of dictate," Brooks, 35, said during the news conference Friday. "We'll basically see what teams are offering. Me never being in this position, it's kind of hard for me to tell you what exactly I am looking for outside of opportunity. We'll just take every opportunity as they come."
The 11-time Pro Bowl player said his release came under less-than-ideal circumstances, considering he had no hint such a move was pending. But he understood it from a business standpoint.
"I don't want to make it seem as if everything was all negative because there were some positives to it," he said. "You always wish the process could be a little different than what it is. But at the end of the day, I've always said this when our owners and our leaders make decisions, it doesn't matter what you feel or think.
"At the end of the day, they made the decision, and I've always respected change. I do that today. I respect the change in the direction that Coach (Raheem) Morris and (general manager) Mark (Dominik) want to go, and I'll do what I can to support it."
Another in an identical situation is running back Warrick Dunn, also released Wednesday. His agent, Jim Steiner, said Dunn "would like to play under the right set of circumstances." He didn't elaborate, but a combination of factors likely include salary and playing time.
Dunn, 34, almost certainly won't be viewed by potential suitors as an every-down back. But it's conceivable he could be a third-down runner who can provide a change of pace while serving as a proficient receiver out of the backfield.
Dunn had 1,116 total yards in 2008, including a team-high 786 rushing and 330 receiving. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, he ranks 19th in NFL history with 10,967 rushing yards.
Brooks and Dunn will proceed judiciously. After all their accomplishments, they've bought themselves some time.
"I guess the best thing about being in the position that I created over time is that I don't have to rush into anything," Brooks said. "Just be patient and continue to pray for direction. Because whatever I set my mind to do, I'm going to be all in."
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected],