Congratulations were in order for Derrick Brooks as he came off the field after Thursday's practice
Against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks recorded 22 tackles, added a sack and a forced fumble and made one play so remarkable that he's still answering questions about it on Thursday.
To all of this, Brooks' teammates responded with a resounding, 'Yeah, and…?'
As Brooks puts it, he may be a 'victim of his own success.' He has set his own bar so high with his sustained brilliance on the field that even a remarkable Sunday performance draws little more than quiet appreciation. When he failed to win the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award on Wednesday, Brooks must have felt like the fighter pilots in Joseph Heller's classic novel, Catch-22.
Yossarian and the rest of the pilots in Heller's World War II masterpiece were faced with this unsolvable dilemma: to get out of flying bomber missions, you had to be crazy, but you also had to ask to get out. If you asked to get out of the missions, as any sane person would want, you obviously weren't crazy.
It's not so grim for Brooks, and maybe not quite as paradoxical, but he does have a Catch-22 of his own. To get rewarded for his stellar play, he has to have an outstanding day, but if he has an outstanding day, he's simply doing what is expected of him. So even when he catches 22 ballcarriers on Sunday, he's whacked by his own personal Catch-22.
Or so it might have seemed until Thursday, when Brooks received the NFC Defensive Player of the Month award for November. It is the first player of the month award for Brooks and the second one handed down to a Buccaneer this season. K Martin Gramatica was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October.
"You figure you'll get something small, and you're rewarded the next day with something even bigger," said Brooks upon learning of the honor as he left the practice field on Thursday afternoon.
Apparently, 22 tackles – which set a career high for Brooks and tied the Bucs' single-game record – is pretty noticeable after all, especially when one of them occurs 30 yards downfield from where Brooks almost sacked the quarterback before chasing down the eventual passcatcher. Moreover, his 57 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble during November weighed heavily when taken as a monthly total.
"It's one of those awards that you get for consistency, and I believe that's the type of play I've been trying to have all year," said Brooks appreciatively. I've got to go out there and play hard, and if I'm in position to make a play, I've got to make a play. That's what it's all about, us running to the football. I'm just trying to lay it on the line to show my teammates that every play counts, no matter what time it is or where you're at in the ballgame."
Still, there is the matter of the reaction around One Buccaneer Place. Head Coach Tony Dungy said on Monday that he wasn't shocked by the aforementioned play because he had come to expect that from his three-time Pro Bowler. DT Warren Sapp said it was just 'Brooks being Brooks.' S John Lynch echoed that thought in his own words. Nobody showed any surprise, though Brooks was given the game ball.
"They're saying it doesn't surprise us because he does that," said Brooks, who is not hurt by the response, or lack thereof. "You're a victim of your success sometimes. I don't think it's something my teammates take for granted. Believe me, when I don't make a play, that's when they're all over me, because they expect me to no matter how great a play it is. It's not frustrating to me. It's just me keeping my standards raised high."
Dungy summed up the team's reaction on Thursday after hearing about the award.
"He's played pretty well, but Derrick plays those types of games pretty much week in and week out, so we kind of get used to them," said Dungy. "Not that a 20-tackle game is ever ho-hum, but we've seen so many of them that he has to do something really spectacular to stand out even more."
After his 22-stop outburst against the Bills, Brooks has a team-leading 148 tackles, 55 more than Lynch, who is running second. Brooks is on pace to make 197 tackles this year, which would be a career high and the second-best mark in team history behind Hardy Nickerson's 214 in 1993.
Brooks is already the only player in Buc annals to have three consecutive 180-tackle seasons, and he's second on the club's all-time tackle chart to Nickerson, who made 1,028 stops from 1993-99. After Sunday, Brooks was all the way up to 911 tackles on his career ledger, which puts him in position to pass Nickerson and become the Bucs' all-time leader some time during the 2001 season.
One can only imagine the wild reaction that will set off among his teammates.