TAMPA — Derrick Brooks believes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a big step in the right direction when it hired his former linebackers coach, Lovie Smith, as head coach this year.
But Brooks, this year’s inductee in the Bucs Ring of Honor, believes a lot of fans will need to see the team do a lot more than hire a previously successful head coach before they start taking regular steps back to Raymond James Stadium.
Brooks said the Bucs are still going through a healing process with fans who have abandoned the team in recent seasons. However, he wants to be part of the healing process, and as part of that he has a request for disgruntled fans.
“Come back for just one game,” Brooks said. “Come back for the St. Louis game this year. That’s one opportunity to be a part of this team again.”
That game against the Rams is scheduled for Sept. 14, which happens to be when Brooks will officially become the sixth member of the Ring of Honor. That’s why Brooks has singled it out.
“There are some very bitter fans out there, even over my situation,” Brooks said, referring to his abrupt release by the team prior to the start of the 2009 season after 14 season. “But I’m doing my best to try to get them to heal.”
Brooks has clearly moved on. A member of the 2014 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he has accepted the NFL’s invitation to represent the Bucs by announcing their second-round pick Friday at the NFL draft in New York.
“It’s just going to take some time,’’ Brooks said of the fans returning to the team. “They want to win, they want to get behind the team, they want to support it. But for some of them, they’re going to have see the organization do something different, reward them in ways that will warrant them coming back.”