Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to fill leadership void left with release of Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and three other veterans

TAMPA — Barrett Ruud has spent his four-year NFL career in Derrick Brooks' considerable shadow.

Ruud learned a little football and a lot about life. He also learned to lead. And it's exactly those lessons Ruud must tap into now that the locker-room leader known as "The Godfather" has seen his Tampa Bay tenure end.

Someone will have to set the tone in meetings, at practice and on the sideline. That's where Brooks, the 14-year starter at linebacker and Tampa Bay icon, was invaluable. He kept egos in check and set an example most have been smart enough to follow.

"I'm telling you," Ruud said Thursday, "when they call him 'The Don,' it really suits him."

But some of those duties now inevitably fall to players such as Ruud. "I'm excited about it, really," said Ruud, 25. "Derrick has been the leader of this team. I think you have to earn respect through your play and how you carry yourself. Hopefully I've done that."

The leadership void wasn't lost on those who made the decision Wednesday to release Brooks and four other veterans — Warrick Dunn, Cato June, Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. The Bucs are suddenly a much younger club, something that comes with a different set of challenges.

That's why one of coach Raheem Morris' first tasks was to reach out to the core of his remaining players, including Ruud, center Jeff Faine and cornerback Ronde Barber.

"It wasn't a real long conversation," Faine said. "He basically told me to 'take the reins.' "

Faine, in his first year in Tampa Bay last season, galvanized a youthful offensive line. His role will expand with Dunn and Hilliard gone from the offensive meeting room.

Faine, 27, is ready.

"I told (Morris) it didn't need to be asked," he said. "I think it is an honor that he asked me to take that role. It's a huge responsibility, but it's a huge honor, too."

Morris isn't acting arbitrarily. He knows Faine is a savvy veteran. He knows that as a first-round pick, someone such as guard Davin Joseph is comfortable with the high expectations of his coaches. And he knows tackle Chris Hovan is among the most experienced defensive players remaining. "I think the way I've led by example is the way I'll continue to do it," said Hovan, 30. ''That's how you earn respect."

Knowing full well there will never be another, the players who remain are wise enough not to try to be Brooks.

"I might be a little more vocal now. I don't know," Ruud said. "But I don't want to change much. You can't try to be something you're not. I don't know if guys would really respond to that."

Running back Clifton Smith can talk at length about the impact the soft-spoken Dunn had on him in 2008, a rookie season that ended with Smith as the NFC's Pro Bowl return man.

Ask any young defender whom they considered their first option when questions arose. "In the meeting room, if there was a question, (Brooks) was the first guy everyone would go to," Ruud said, "and he always knew the answer."

Now it's time for others to fulfill that role.

"There's got to come a time when some of the young guys on this team step up and earn that respect," Hovan said.

Now would seem like the perfect time.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at

Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to fill leadership void left with release of Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and three other veterans 02/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 26, 2009 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Are cold bats a sign of things to come?


    How does an offense that has ranked among the most productive in the league for seven weeks go so cold?

  2. Calvary Christian takes strong lineup, defense to state baseball tournament


    CLEARWATER — No matter what happens in Friday's Class 4A state semifinal against Delray Beach American Heritage, Calvary Christian has already had a historic season. The unbeaten Warriors have won 28 games and qualified for the school's first state baseball tournament.

    The addition of Nolan Hudi to the rotation made a difference, said Calvary Christian coach Greg Olsen. “It was huge.”
  3. Former Buc Mike Glennon says right things about Bears QB situation


    Mike Glennon's go-to line about being recognized around town since becoming a Bear worked as well as ever, producing laughs.

    Quarterback Mike Glennon, shown last season with the Bucs before signing in the offseason with the Bears, is showing good humor about a looming competition in Chicago. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]