As hard as he tried to acknowledge the separation that now exists between himself and the Buccaneers, Derrick Brooks couldn't quite pull it off Friday. The leader in him just wouldn't allow it.
Though he wore a bright blue warm-up and asked that the setting for his news conference be void of Bucs logos, Brooks couldn't avoid leading his old team one last time.
Before meeting the media at One Buc Place, Brooks said he spoke with several former teammates - including Geno Hayes, the young linebacker who could replace him - and told them to "buy into" the system he's no longer a part of.
"That's part of my message," Brooks said. "For now it's, 'Hey guys, buy in to what's going on; buy into what's being said,' because I'd say the same thing if I was a teammate. That's more or less me trying to bring closure to this.
"And I'll be honest, I think it's going to be hard for some of these guys to come into this locker room and not see me as a teammate. So, I'm doing the best I can to help 'em move on."
What Brooks will move on to remains uncertain. He did not close the door on a return to football, but he is prepared for the possibility that an offer acceptable to him won't be forthcoming.
"We're going to look at all options," he said. "I think that's the beauty of who God made me. My single-minded approach was always to prepare myself for a day without football.
"I've well-rounded myself to go in a number of directions, so I'll just step back and look at it, with football being one option. And there are other things out there, too."
One of those other options could be a position within the Bucs organization. Brooks said it's still too early to say whether he's ready to accept such a move, but he did not rule it out.
"I'll just evaluate it as it comes," Brooks said. "The best thing about being in the position that was created over time for me is that I don't have to rush into anything."
Brooks was clearly rushed out of the Bucs' plans. Just last week, he said, he was sitting down with new coordinator Jim Bates going over the terminology of the defensive scheme Bates intends to run.
Brooks seems to have to come to grips with it rather quickly, though. He didn't shed a tear during his 20-minute news conference and never once appeared close to choking up with emotion over his release.
That's not to say he's happy with it. Though he said he respected the decision the Bucs made to move on without him, he clearly was disappointed by the way they went about it.
"The process was not what I expected," Brooks said, "but at the same time I can look Coach Raheem Morris, our owners, and general manager Mark Dominik in the eye and shake their hands as a grown man and as a professional and support them."
Brooks said it's still too soon to know if the direction the Bucs are heading without him is the right one, but he encouraged his former teammates to have confidence in their leaders. He also suggested that those who step up as leaders in the locker room do so on their own terms.
"I would suggest that no one try to be me, because I didn't try to be anyone else," Brooks said. "I think the leadership has to come naturally. To designate a guy, that's too much pressure. You just can't do it. God made only one of me."