During his 14 years in the NFL, Derrick Brooks experienced opening days in Philadelphia (twice), Minneapolis (twice), Foxborough, Dallas, Landover, Seattle and, of course, Tampa. Brooks played all 14 of his professional seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and never missed a single game, let alone a season opener.
Now retired and on the verge of being eligible for nomination to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Brooks is headed to one more opening-day location next month…and still as a Buccaneer.
While the Buccaneers are preparing for their own Week One game at home against the Carolina Panthers, Brooks will spend that week in New York City, taking part in the festivities that surround the NFL's 2012 Kickoff Game. As has become tradition, the defending league champs will get the season started with a Wednesday night game before the rest of the Week One schedule, and in this case that means a highly-anticipated Sept. 5 showdown between the Dallas Cowboys and the Lombardi Trophy-wielding New York Giants.
To add league-wide interest to the event, the NFL is planning to bring one representative from each of the 32 teams to New York for opening week. The details of that plan have not yet been officially announced, but Buccaneer fans can know this: One of the greatest players in franchise history will be representing them at the game's opening-week epicenter.
"I'm happy to represent our organization during the week of kickoff," said Brooks, who visited One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday. "There are going to be a lot of festivities going on, and all 32 teams will have somebody representing them. I'm very humbled that the Glazers agreed for me to be our representative. It's always nice to know that support is there. I'm going to go to New York and be the best Buc representative I can be."
That won't be difficult for Brooks, of course, as he spent nearly two decades as a Bay area standout both on the football field and as a community leader. The 32 team representatives have not yet been given specific details as to the activities that will include them, but Brooks expects there to be community and corporate visits as well as some sort of pregame event on the field at MetLife Stadium on Wednesday evening.
"I've kind of got an idea but nothing official has been announced," said Brooks of the expected Big Apple itinerary. "I know we're all going to do some joint stuff with the commissioner. Being that opening day is going to be in New York, I can only imagine how much there will be to do. "There are going to be lots of league initiatives before that, and that's where our organization will be represented."
And, with Brooks on hand, it will be represented well.