LB Derrick Brooks, in his third straight Pro Bowl, is familiar with the pace of practice
Pro Bowl practices generally end before noon in Hawaii, which is good because players need ample time to recover. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training staff, which thought a 24-week season was long, now has another five days of attending to the cramps and sore muscles that arise from those back-breaking 90-minute Pro Bowl workouts.
Yes, we're laying it on a little thick here. Buccaneers.com spoke to Tampa Bay LB Derrick Brooks following Wednesday's practice, and found the All-Pro defender not terribly winded. Brooks, who has emerged as one of the league's top linebackers through a combination of speed and smarts, explained that the typical Pro Bowl practice plays right to his strengths: a cranial workout.
"You've got to take into account that a lot of guys haven't played in a while," said Brooks, "and the guys coming off playoff games are a little banged up. So you can't set a very physical tempo; it's mostly mental stuff."
Brooks referred to the basic offensive and defensive systems installed each season for the Pro Bowl. For player safety purposes, actions on both sides of the ball are kept fairly straightforward, which can be an adjustment for most of the all-stars in Hawaii. What that means is that each day's session is more of an extended lesson than a strenuous workout.
"Practice was okay…it was real laid back," said Brooks after Wednesday's version. "For the most part, you just try to learn the defense as quick as you can so you can go out there and have fun on Sunday."
While nobody frowns on a less-than-intense approach to these practices in paradise, that doesn't mean that the actual game will follow suit. Brooks claimed that the players do find meaning in the event, even if it does come post-Super Bowl. Just like that ultimate NFL contest, which the St. Louis Rams won last Sunday in a 23-16 thriller over the Tennessee Titans, the Pro Bowl pits the two conferences against each other. That rivalry remains intense despite the increased player movement brought on by free agency, and the all-time series is almost even. Despite a three-game AFC winning streak, the NFC holds a 15-14 career edge.
"It's a pride thing for sure," confirmed Brooks, "and the NFC hasn't won in three years, so we definitely want to go out and win this ballgame."
That means back to the grindstone tomorrow morning, for another 90 minutes of hard labor in the heavy Hawaiian sun. You're not buying it, are you?