TAMPA — Derrick Brooks never missed a game in his 14-year career with the Bucs. Whether that streak continues with another team remains a mystery.
Brooks, 35, apparently is taking some time to digest what happened Wednesday before announcing, perhaps as early as today, his plans.
Most friends and teammates contacted Thursday think he will hang up his cleats.
"Naw," former Bucs DT Warren Sapp said when asked if Brooks will play again.
"I think he retires," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "But honestly, I don't know."
"I think he retires," former Bucs QB Shaun King said. "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," former teammate Keyshawn Johnson said. "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 who thinks Brooks could sign with another team is Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry, a guy Brooks has asked for an honest evaluation of his play after each season.
"I think he can and will play next year," Barry said.
But Brooks has played for only one organization, where he was perhaps the most revered 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," GM Mark 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."
Bryant retained: Although his departure was unlikely, the team's top offensive contributor will be locked into playing for the Bucs in the fall after signing a one-year, franchise-player contract Thursday, agent Lamont Smith said. As a result, WR Antonio Bryant won't be permitted to shop his services on the open market. There was a chance a team could target Bryant provided it was willing to yield two first-round picks to land the nonexclusive franchise player.
Bryant doesn't emerge a loser. He'll be paid $9.884 million for 2009, a sum that's guaranteed. There's a chance the sides could negotiate a long-term deal, but they are not talking, Smith said.
Bryant, 27, was designated the team's franchise player just before last week's deadline after the sides were unable to agree to a multiyear deal, prompting Smith to say Bryant was dissatisfied with the team's efforts to sign him.
Hilliard not done: WR Ike Hilliard "plans on playing in 2009," said his agent, Neil Schwartz. Hilliard will be 33 by opening day but has remained consistent, finishing 2008 tied for second on the team with 47 receptions for 424 yards. His four touchdowns also ranked second.